Thousands of Illinois primary voters turned away from polling places due to lack of ballots have been denied their vote after a recent court ruling.
In six counties across Illinois — Adams, Champaign, Effingham, Madison, Sangamon, and St. Clair — polling places ran out of ballots amid higher-than-expected voter turnout, meaning thousands of voters were sent home after waiting in line. On March 17, Adams County state attorney Jon Barnard went before Adams County circuit judge Chet Vahle to ask for an injunction that would grant those voters the ability to vote late due to ballot issues.
The next day, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter who has introduced her at campaign rallies, filed an appeal in Illinois 4th District Appellate Court to prevent late voting. On March 23, the appellate court issued a stay on Judge Vahle’s injunction, meaning those voters won’t get a chance to cast ballots in this primary. Hillary Clinton won Illinois by roughly 35,000 votes, or a slim 1.8 percent margin, effectively splitting delegates with Sanders.
Bernie Sanders won in four of the six Illinois counties that had ballot shortages.
- In Champaign County, Sanders beat Clinton 20,581-10,542 — almost a two-to-one margin.
- Bernie Sanders beat Clinton in rural Effingham County 1,247-867.
- Sanders won by 3,391 votes in Madison County, a Democratic Party stronghold.
- Bernie Sanders won 10,365 votes to Clinton’s 9,255 votes in Sangamon County.
In a phone interview, Adams County State’s Attorney Jon Barnard said that had there been enough ballots available in those counties, the end result may have been a Sanders win, rather than a Clinton victory.
“I think it’s certainly possible,” Barnard told US Uncut. “The number of voters that were turned away was in the thousands. Sangamon and Madison [Counties] are huge for Democrats.”
Barnard believes the Attorney General’s position in preventing late voting was due to a desire to have uniformity in the voting process, as other counties do not have late voting. But he points out that late voting would actually restore equality, stating, “I would actually agree with the call for uniformity, because there’s no uniformity in some people not being allowed to vote because there aren’t enough ballots.”
Barnard added that the responsibility for having enough available ballots ultimately falls on the shoulders of elected county clerks, who are charged with the duty of running fair elections. Barnard said those clerks “failed” voters on primary night.
“What occurred here is that the county clerk failed to print sufficient ballots to meet the demands of voters,” Barnard said. “How ironic is it that the entity who appears to be the guardian of the right to vote is the entity that deprived people of that right.”
Because the Adams County Clerk must certify primary election results by March 29, Barnard said there isn’t enough time to appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, effectively disenfranchising thousands of voters.
Calls and emails to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office were not returned.
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact Tom via email at [email protected]