Bethany Krajelis Nov. 4, 2014, 4:50pm

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a pair of lawsuits today accusing Lake County's clerk of violating election laws.

Madigan's office, in a news release issued today, said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander is "illegally interpreting" the Election Code's provisions on absentee ballots and grace period voting in a way that prevented some residents of the collar county from voting in the General Election.

“The Lake County Clerk is failing to follow the law,” Madigan said in the release. “These illegal practices risk disenfranchising voters throughout the county. I have asked the court to act immediately to protect Lake County residents’ right to have their vote be counted.”

The Lake County circuit court issued a ruling in the first suit Madigan filed in her favor and was expected to review the second suit today, according to the attorney general's office, which as of 4:30 p.m. today, had not provided an update via news release.

Filed this morning, Madigan's first suit claimed Helander sent an instruction letter on Monday to voting precinct site managers, wrongly telling them that voters who requested absentee ballots, but showed up to vote had to cast provisional ballots if they didn't turn in the certificate envelope and the unvoted ballot.

It also said Helander told election judges to make voters who did not receive an absentee ballot or didn't bring it to their polling place to use a provisional ballot to vote.

Madigan alleged in her suit that "Helander is violating state election law by engaging in two illegal practices that are effectively barring voters who previously requested absentee ballots but who now want to vote in person from casting a regular ballot.

The Election Code, according to the attorney general, only requires voters who previously requested an absentee ballot to submit their absentee ballot or a portion of it in order to get a ballot and vote in person. In addition, the release says voters who never got an absentee ballot or didn't bring it should simply submit an affidavit saying so and cast a regular ballot.

According to the release, Madigan's suit included affidavits from Lake County voters who previously asked for absentee ballots and were required to vote via provisional ballots when they showed up to vote in person.

Lake County Circuit Judge Mitchell L. Hoffman this afternoon "ruled in favor of Madigan's first complaint, issuing a temporary restraining order barring Helander from enforcing these illegal practices," according to the release.

The second complaint Madigan filed accuses Helander of violating election law by not letting residents register and vote during a grace period, which includes today.

The Lake County Clerk’s website said grace period registration locations on Election Day opened at 10 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m. Madigan asserts this violates state law, which allows grace period voting to occur when the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

An affidavit from a Lake County voter who was prevented from registering before 10 a.m. was included in Madigan's suit.


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