Daily Herald opinion: Series of news conferences emphasizes importance of standing up for integrity of the system
Among the most damaging results of the bitter political divisiveness that has split Americans over the past decade has been a breach in confidence in our election processes.
Partisans will argue over who started the controversy -- whether disgruntled extremist Democrats nursing the wounds of Hillary Clinton's failed bid for the presidency in 2016 or bitter Republicans' persistence that Donald Trump was cheated out of a second term four years later -- but truthfully, that argument is specious and academic. What matters is recognition that our election systems today are as reliable and secure today as they have been in every election since 1788. Indeed, perhaps even more so thanks to improvements in technology and oversight systems.
That theme was underscored in a series of news conferences downstate this week at which election officials described the protections in place to ensure election security and pleaded with the public to help stop misinformation campaigns that chip away at the credibility of their work.
It's a message that demands to be heard in Chicago and the suburbs as well as in Peoria and Pekin and LaSalle and Bloomington and everywhere across the state.
At one of the Tuesday events featured in a report by Capitol News Illinois, Elizabeth Gannon, executive director of the Peoria County Election Commission, emphasized efforts undertaken to protect election results.
All voting equipment in the state, she said, is certified by both the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Illinois State Board of Elections, "and all of that information is available at the State Board of Elections because you can see the tests that they run and all of the ins and outs that that equipment has been put through to show that it is counting accurately and that it can be trusted."
Meanwhile, Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, emphasized the harm caused when uninformed and unfounded accusations hinder the work of election officials and challenge confidence in the integrity of our elections.
"Whether it's false rumors on social media about Sharpie markers, or more serious but equally untrue allegations about manipulation of voting equipment, we in the election community are working hard to debunk these attacks," Dietrich said.
It's a sad commentary on the state of our democracy that election officials feel the need to start so early getting the public's attention about issues related to the 2024 election system, but at the same time, it's important to recognize that we can each combat the misinformation and that officials want our help.
"We welcome your inquiries," Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman said. "Better yet, get involved in our processes. We all need more election judges. You're never going to hear one of us say we don't want more election judges. Get involved in the process."