Metro-East News

Early voting delayed by hiccup in whose names will go on the ballot

A hangup in the race for Illinois attorney general along with another case filed to the state elections board have thrown a wrench into early voting activities in St. Clair County.

Early voting was set to begin in the county on Thursday, but officials are delaying the vote until judges make decisions in the two cases.

Early voting will begin on time in Madison County, though the East St. Louis Board of Elections announced it, too, was delaying early voting.

Scott Drury, a Democratic candidate for attorney general who was kicked off the primary ballot, is appealing his case, as is Republican candidate for the 56th state Senate seat, Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton.

Judges could make decisions in the cases this week, potentially opening up early voting in St. Clair County as soon as Friday or Monday, according to Elections Supervisor Laura Kaemmerer. The decision could be delayed longer, however, because there is no deadline for the judges’ decisions, Illinois Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said.

While Patton’s case only affects ballots in St. Clair, Madison and Jersey counties, the decision in the Drury case will affect ballots in every Illinois county.

But some early voting ballots for St. Clair County have already been sent to military members as required by federal statute. Those ballots included Drury’s name, but not Patton’s, the elections supervisor said. In Madison County, both Patton’s and Drury’s names were included on the ballot, according to Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza. Drury’s name was included on East St. Louis ballots.

The St. Clair County Clerk and East St. Louis board will still make paper “proof” ballots available to those who cannot vote any time other than Thursday. Those voters will file a paper ballot, which will be remade as an official ballot once the final version is available. Voters will also have the option to sign up for a vote-by-mail application.

If the ballot changes, anyone who filed a paper ballot in East St. Louis will receive a letter letting them know they can come back and re-cast their ballot. If they don’t come back, their ballot will be remade with the same information, except the vote for attorney general would be moot. In St. Clair County, the clerk’s office will either mail a new ballot to voters or voters can come in an cast a new ballot. Even if someone casts a ballot for another candidate, that person will have to cast an updated ballot if the final ballot is different.

In Madison County, voters can cast their early ballots starting Thursday, but if Patton or Drury are removed from the final ballots, votes for those candidates will not count, Ming-Mendoza said. Madison County voters will not have the option to recast their ballots at a later date if the ballot changes, she said.

A judge on Feb. 2 ruled Drury’s name should be removed from the March 20 ballot because of uncertainty surrounding his economic interest filings. Drury, a state representative from Highwood, appealed the judge’s finding. Just a few days later, a judge said Drury’s name could remain on the ballot along with eight other Democratic candidates during the appeal process.

Patton’s name was kicked off the ballot because he signed the election petitions of state Rep. Katie Stuart, a Democrat. A person cannot sign election petitions for multiple parties.

The elections board spokesman said the board is advising each county to consult with their state’s attorney to decide a course of action while the appeals continue. The board does not have the authority to give counties legal advice or tell them what to do, Dietrich said.

Depending on what the judges decide in the two cases, the early ballot could change. If it does, the county clerk will resend the final ballot to military members, Kaemmerer said.

Early voting was also delayed in Chicago, according to the Associated Press.

Once the final ballots are available, early voting will continue through March 19.

Reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this report.

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis