Alexi Giannoulias: 2022 candidate for Illinois Secretary of State
Office sought: Secretary of State
Occupation: Founder & CEO Annoula Ventures
Previous offices held: Illinois State Treasurer (2007-2011)
What personal background and experiences particularly qualify you for the role of secretary of state?
As the only candidate running for Secretary of State who has served as a constitutional officer, I have experience running a statewide agency, managing hundreds of employees and representing the entire state.
As Illinois Treasurer, my administration focused on implementing policies and programs designed to help all Illinois by cracking down on ethical abuses, generating jobs and safely investing taxpayer dollars.
On my first day in office, I banned my campaign from taking contributions from contractors, banks and office employees. I also authored legislation to stop credit card companies from using deceptive marketing tactics designed to prey on college students. I also wasn't afraid to take a stand, threatening to pull the State's $8 billion investment portfolio from Wells Fargo when the bank planned to shut down Des Plaines-based Hartmarx and liquidate 1,000 jobs, which helped save the company.
In 2011, I was appointed Chairman of the Illinois Community College System and later served on the Board of the Chicago Public Libraries. I also have private sector experience, helping BNY Mellon establish itself as a presence in Illinois along with starting my own company, Annoula Ventures, which helped start mostly Illinois-based businesses and startups.
How efficiently do you think the Secretary of State's office operates currently? What, if anything, would you do to streamline the office?
The global pandemic and the surge for Real IDs has demonstrated that government needs to make changes to better serve the public and deliver services faster and more efficiently.
Our "Skip the Line" program will allow drivers to schedule an appointment and enable them to move to the front of the line for service at each driver's license facility.
Allowing for digital driver's licenses and state identification cards on people's phones will make it more convenient for Illinoisans to update their information remotely and avoid an in person visit to a facility.
I also plan to: Introduce an app allowing the public to upload documents in advance and receive notifications about renewals and appointments; and guarantee neighborhood access by making more programs and support available at pop up offices and available to local libraires.
Finally, I plan to offer more assistance -- especially for seniors -- to those who don't speak English and others who need special assistance. I will assign "office advocates" who will help individuals throughout the entire process to make sure they get the help and services that they need from the time they walk in or call the office up until they have everything they need.
Are there enough branch offices in Chicago, the suburbs and downstate?
In addition to increasing remote services, I plan to take an assessment of all of the branch offices across the state to determine how my administration could better serve the general public. I intend to look at increase the number of facilities in populated areas that currently do not have suitable and equitable access to services and where it makes the most sense to do so. This is especially critical when considering senior and other communities who do not have access to online services and feel more comfortable with in-person appointments.
How would you rate customer service at secretary of state branch offices? If it needs improvements, how would you make them?
The biggest obstacle to service quality at our facilities are issues of efficiency. The Secretary of State's offices act as retail operations, providing service to customers -- just like stores and restaurants and need to improve the customer experience. I want to repeal the Time Tax, or the amount of time people spending waiting in line, filling out forms or on the phone, just to obtain government services.
My Skip the Line program, using sophisticated technology, will enable people to schedule appointments in advance and head to the front of the line when they arrive at a facility to avoid long waits. In addition, by providing the option of obtaining services digitally through an app and allowing customers to upload documents ahead of their appointments, we will reduce the number of drivers who need to come to the facilities to obtain services and decrease their time at each facility if they do. This will cut down on wait times, which is the biggest issue facing Illinoisans when interfacing with the Secretary of State's office.
Are you satisfied with the rate of organ donation? Is this an appropriate initiative for the secretary of state? Should the office do more to promote the practice?
Under Secretary White, Illinois has made great strides in organ donation registration by
eliminating requirements for family consent for adult organ donation for adults. More than seven million Illinoisans -- or 58% of the state -- have registered as organ donors. But we can do better.
Healthcare inequities in Illinois have brought to the forefront with the disproportionate rates of infection and death caused by COVID-19 among communities of color. Equally as troubling, imbalances exist in organ and tissue transplant rates throughout the state. For example, 80% of all Illinoisans in need of an organ transplant are on the waiting list for kidneys -- and Black Illinoisans comprise a disproportionate 40% of those in need of kidney transplants.
I want to expand the donation registry by providing incentives for people to register for the first time and to increase marketing and education programs geared toward people of color and target areas of the state where donor rates are lower. Increasing awareness of donation and transplantation, especially in communities of color -- through innovative campaigns and speakers -- will help to bridge the gap between the demand for organ transplants and supply of donated organs.