Congressional candidates for 10th District support expanded mail-in voting

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, both candidates for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat support expanding mail-in voting.

But to prevent fraud, Republican hopeful Valerie Ramirez Mukherjee of Northbrook wants voters to have to request ballots rather than them being mailed automatically.

Democratic incumbent Brad Schneider of Deerfield would prefer ballots be mailed to all eligible voters. He insisted safeguards successfully stymie fraud.

The candidates spoke about voting by mail and other issues with the Daily Herald in a joint, online interview earlier this month and in follow-up interviews.

The ability for Illinoisans to vote by mail expanded this year because of the pandemic.

Under state law, people who voted in this year's primary, the 2019 consolidated local election or the 2018 general election automatically are being sent vote-by-mail application forms. So are people who registered to vote or updated their address between March 18 and July 31.

Applications also can be requested online or in person from their local election authority.

The deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 29, but they can be requested in person through Nov. 2.

Completed ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and received by the appropriate election authority by Nov. 17 to be valid.

Ramirez Mukherjee, who is making her first bid for public office, said she's "proud of what Illinois has done" when it comes to expanding voting by mail. Still, she would've preferred applications be automatically sent to anyone who's voted since the last presidential election in 2016.

"There are a lot of voters, particularly minorities, who don't vote in primaries and don't vote in off-term elections," she said. "But they do vote in presidential elections."

Additionally, Ramirez Mukherjee opposed universal mail-in voting, in which voters are sent unsolicited ballots. President Donald Trump, who has regularly railed about potential fraud in mail-in voting, has the same stance.

Because some people move frequently, Ramirez Mukherjee fears universal mail-in voting could result in many ballots going to addresses where the intended recipients no longer live. That's a waste of money, she said, and it potentially creates fraud.

A former resident of Washington state, where every voter automatically is mailed a ballot, Ramirez Mukherjee recalled receiving a Washington ballot after she had moved to a different state.

"We put in our change of address. Why am I getting this ballot?" she said.

Unlike Ramirez Mukherjee, Schneider would like to see mail-in ballots automatically sent to voters.

"I want everyone in this country who can vote to cast their ballot," said Schneider, who is seeking his fourth term since first being elected in 2012. "Republican, Democrat, independent, Green - I don't care. The more people that cast their ballot, the better government I believe we have."

In response to his opponents' concerns about fraud, Schneider noted that knowingly voting twice in different states in the same election is illegal.

"My son in the Navy in San Diego is going to get an absentee ballot (from Illinois)," Schneider said. "If he tried to vote in San Diego and got his absentee ballot from Illinois, that would be a crime. But he doesn't. He votes in Illinois because this is still his home."

Schneider also pointed out that voting by mail and in person in the same election - as Trump recently suggested people try to do - is a felony, too.

Schneider insisted "there's no evidence of fraud" in the relatively few states with universal mail-in voting.

The 10th District includes parts of Cook and Lake counties.

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