Feds, state officials look into Kankakee voter fraud allegations

Chicago Sun-Times | October 5, 2016

The flurry of voter fraud and intimidation allegations and counter allegations swirling through Kankakee County has caught the attention of state and federal officials.

A day after Kankakee officials announced an investigation into voter fraud, including allegations that “individuals from Chicago” were offering gifts in exchange for votes, the top federal attorney for central Illinois and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan paid the city a visit.

Illinois Attorney General’s office spokeswoman Maura Possley said her office is “actively monitoring” the situation.
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jamie Boyd disclosed the investigation on Tuesday, sparking a war of words and accusations between the Illinois Democratic Party and the Illinois Republican Party.

Republicans tried to keep the heat on Wednesday, launching a voter fraud hotline.

The probe is centered on a hotly contested race between Democratic State Rep. Kate Cloonen and her Republican challenger Lindsay Parkhurst. The race is among the most expensive House races this election cycle.

While Boyd said the investigation was opened in response to allegations that “gifts” were offered to voters by “individuals from Chicago” in exchange for votes for Cloonen, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and “others,” union leaders and former Democratic officials turned the tables, saying instead that voters had been “harassed and intimidated” by local officials, including the state’s attorney’s office, sheriff’s office and county clerk.

On Wednesday, Madigan, U.S. Attorney James A. Lewis and Illinois State Board of Elections officials met with Boyd and a Kankakee County Clerk’s office employee “to ensure a fair, open and legal election this fall that allows all residents to vote equally without obstacles or intimidation by law enforcement officials or offers in exchange for votes, all of which are prohibited by law,” according to a joint news release.

Madigan and Lewis discussed the complaints, including allegations that some minority voters were being subject to unnecessary requirements and “misinformation” about their ability to vote, law enforcement officials intimidating voters and questioning people who drove them to vote and offers in exchange for casting ballots, Madigan’s office said.

Union officials and a Democratic former state representative issued a statement on Cloonen’s behalf on Tuesday with the harassment allegations. And Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan called the investigation further “voter suppression” from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Republican Party.

The state Republican Party turned the tables: “Only a crooked Chicago political boss would cry foul when a state’s attorney takes action against voter fraud,” said spokesman Steven Yaffe.

The Illinois Republican Party also on Wednesday announced it’s launching a voter fraud hotline at 1-844-4-ILFRAUD. The party said the investigation was sparked by three complaints of people who said they were bribed for votes and that several voter applications that were filed were fraudulent.

Republicans called attacks from Cloonen’s camp and the Democratic Party a way “to distract from the allegations that Democratic candidates are benefiting from election fraud.”

The Illinois Attorney General’s office is reminding voters of their basic rights during early voting, including that voters have the right to register and cast their vote at the same time; if your registration is active and current, you don’t have to show identification; if your voter registration is “inactive” and your address has changed, you must show proof of your current address. In addition, if their voter registration is “canceled,” voters need to re-register and show two forms of identification.

If a voter makes a mistake and the ballot has not yet been cast, the voter has the right to get a replacement ballot.

Additionally, no one is allowed to try to influence a voter within 100 feet of the polling place.