Lake officials hoping to fix election glitch affecting military personnel
Lake County officials have discovered a glitch in state law that gives military personnel less time to vote by mail than civilians, and they're hoping legislators will fix the problem ahead of the March primary election.
"What's really important is that we give our military servicemen and servicewomen the same opportunities to vote that everybody else has," said Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican who's among those pushing to change the law.
Under state law, Illinois voters who are in the military and who choose to mail ballots rather than vote in person must have the documents postmarked by the midnight preceding Election Day.
For any other Illinois residents who vote by mail, the postmark deadline is midnight Election Day. That was established by a 2015 change to election law, Lake County Clerk Carla Wyckoff said.
The difference isn't dramatic, and Lawlor said he was unaware of any ballots from Lake County military personnel being disqualified because the postmark was a day off.
Still, Lawlor doesn't want anyone's ballot being tossed unfairly.
"It's something we need to clean up," he said.
The discrepancy was discovered by a member of Wyckoff's staff.
"We pore over these changes in the statute," Wyckoff said.
Lawlor, Wyckoff and the county board support amending sections of the election law to create the same deadline for military and civilian voters.
They're recommending the statute read that ballots must be postmarked no later than midnight on Election Day.
"It's a very simple fix," Lawlor said. "All we're doing is changing a couple words."
Lawlor wants the law changed before the March 15 primary election, which includes high-profile races for the presidency, Congress and the state legislature.
He's spoken with state Sen. Pamela Althoff and state Rep. Rita Mayfield about sponsoring such an amendment in Springfield, and both are aboard.
"We can accommodate and address (the problem) to provide parity," said Althoff, a McHenry Republican.
Mayfield called the proposal "a common sense bill."
"I expect the bill to sail through both chambers with no opponents," said Mayfield, a Waukegan Democrat whose district includes the Great Lakes Naval Station. "We are simply extending to military personnel the same benefits shared by civilians."
The change wouldn't result in additional expenses for any of the 102 county clerk offices in Illinois, Lawlor said, nor would additional paperwork or training be needed.
"It's simply policy," he said. "Now these ballots will be counted."