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Former inmates incorrectly removed from voter rolls

Former inmates incorrectly removed from voter rolls

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 800 former inmates may have had their voter registrations incorrectly canceled “due to a data-matching error” between the Illinois State Board of Elections and the Illinois Department of Corrections, the elections board announced Monday.

ISBE said in a news release it had notified 59 local election authorities of the issue, which stemmed from an incorrect classification of the 774 former inmates as “currently incarcerated.”

Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the elections board, said it had not heard of voters being turned away because of the issue, which occurred from 2014 until it was discovered in 2019. He said those who may be affected would have been able to cast a provisional ballot or file for same-day registration.

“So we don't think that anyone was turned away. We don't have any knowledge that anyone was unable to vote,” he said.

The news release said ISBE has worked directly with IDOC to identify the affected individuals, whose records were among more than 126,000 shared between the two agencies between 2014 and 2019. ISBE also provided each local election authority with voter information on the affected individuals so their registrations can be reviewed for reinstatement by the start of early voting on Feb. 6.

“Anyone on this list who was incorrectly canceled, would have the opportunity to re-register when they go in to early vote or when they go into their polling place on election day,” he said. “However, we would much prefer that the local jurisdictions be aware of this issue and be aware of exactly which voters of theirs that they may need to deal with.”

He said informing local elections authorities would allow them to reinstate people on the list or to make contingency plans if one of the people on the list shows up to vote but is not registered.

“So the important thing is to know that going forward, anyone who's on that list…who shouldn't have had their registration canceled, will be able to vote,” he said.

Under Illinois law, a person’s voting rights are stripped when they are incarcerated, but upon release they can re-register to vote.

Dietrich said it is possible some of the 774 inmates on the list were removed by local election authorities for other reasons including a change of address, but ISBE would have no way of knowing if that was the case.

Dietrich said both agencies are “revising their data sharing agreement” to avoid this error in future data exchanges, and ISBE stopped sharing the data upon realizing the issue in November.

ISBE also encourages all Illinois voters to check on their registration status by visiting https://ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx.

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