With much of America freaked out over Election Day, things in Illinois just got even weirder.
Plus, in confusing and frustrating a lot of voters, the state just wasted a big bunch of money.
That’s no surprise in the Land of Lincoln. Still, this is a bad time for the state to ratchet up its typical high level of dysfunction, what with all the national shrieking about voter fraud, the postal system and other election allegations and shenanigans.
In Illinois, you might’ve heard some of the latest screwy story. But you probably didn’t hear what it cost you.
In May, the General Assembly decided to help the general election go as smoothly as possible. With the pandemic raging, legislators wanted to ensure COVID-wary voters were given every opportunity to vote by mail.
So, they passed a law. County clerks were to identify voters who had cast ballots over the last three years. By Aug. 1, those voters were to be sent vote-by-mail applications.
The county clerks were then to keep track of voters who didn’t submit those applications. Those names were given to the Illinois State Board of Elections, which forwarded those names to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office.
Per the new law, the Secretary of State sent letters to those voters Sept. 15. The message was brief:
“Correspondence was previously sent to you by your local election authority with information on how to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot. Your election authority had indicated that you have not yet applied for a ballot; however, you still have time to submit an application for a vote-by-mail ballot. Please contact your local election official listed in the upper right hand corner of this letter to complete an application, return an application or to receive additional information about vote by mail.”
In coming days, county clerks all over Illinois were inundated with calls from perplexed voters. Some wondered if perhaps voting booths had been eliminated in favor of an all-mail election. Others insisted they sent in their applications but now worried that some sort of snafu would cut them out of the ballot process.
The truth? The voting booths will be open in November for those who want to cast a ballot in person. And for those voters who submitted a vote-by-mail application, those ballots will be mailed Sept. 24.
I don’t know if anyone didn’t understand any of that before lawmakers rushed to the rescue. But in trying to straighten everything out, the Legislature just gummed things up.
You might’ve read about this story so far. Sorry, dear taxpayer – there’s more.
See, letters don’t come free, as the state told me Monday. And, as always, taxpayers are footing the bill.
The cost: $2.3 million.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like much money in a state with a budget of more than $40 billion. Still, maybe there’s a better use for $2.3 million, such as symposiums for legislators on how not to waste money or taxpayer’s bananas.
By the way, there’s one more thing.
What’s worse than blowing $2.3 million on a letter that only confuses people?
On Oct. 15, the state will send out a similar letter. Same message, same goal, probably the same confusion.
That’s the law.
Phil Luciano is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.
Columns,Region: Peoria,City: Peoria,Opinion
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September 22, 2020 at 05:18AM