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A federal judge ruled late Thursday that political operatives cannot collect and submit Illinois vote-by-mail ballots; only the voter, or someone specifically designated by the voter and authorized by signature, can submit ballots to election authorities
CHICAGO (Sept. 17, 2020) – Late this afternoon a federal judge ruled in the lawsuit challenging Illinois’ new Vote By Mail program that political operatives cannot collect mass amounts of mail-in ballots and dump them into the new ballot return boxes or submit them to election authorities unless both the voter and the person assisting have signed an authorization form. The ruling was made in a case brought last month by the Cook County Republican Party, which argued that the validity of election results will be in doubt if this program moves forward.
The judge denied the Cook County Republican Party’s request to halt the Vote By Mail program for the upcoming November election, on the basis that fraud has not yet occurred because ballots are not being counted yet.
Liberty Justice Center Senior Attorney Brian Kelsey offered the following statement regarding today’s ruling: “Many Illinoisans, including our client, have very serious and very valid concerns about the integrity of the upcoming election. This program was rushed through the legislature in a state with a strong reputation for corruption and government incompetence. While we are disappointed that the judge did not grant our motion for preliminary injunction, we are pleased with his ruling regarding ballot harvesting. All across America Vote By Mail programs are leading to voter disenfranchisement and fraud. Every voter in Illinois – regardless of political party – deserves to have their vote counted and to feel confident in the election result. As election officials begin counting ballots, we will closely monitor the execution of this new program and are committed to ensuring every vote counts.”
The lawsuit, Cook County Republican Party v. Pritzker, was filed on Aug. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The party is represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, a national law firm that has filed three other lawsuits against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker so far this year.
“Every American has a fundamental, constitutional right to vote – but that right is abridged when the election is marred by fraud or disenfranchisement,” said Pat Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “The purpose of this lawsuit is to ensure the accuracy and integrity of Illinois’ elections. While there has always been a certain cynicism about elections in Illinois and particularly in Chicago, we must fight to ensure the will of the people is honored, and that Illinois voters can be confident in the election process.”
According to published reports, more than 1 million Illinoisans have already requested mail-in ballots. Elected officials are making a hard push for mail-in voting, including texting voters who have not requested a mail-in ballot and sending ballot applications to voters’ homes.
The Vote By Mail program was instituted under the guise of protecting Illinoisans from contracting COVID-19 when they visit a polling place in person. However, prior to this program Illinois already had in place a voting process for those who wish to not vote in person: absentee ballots. The state has allowed voters to request an absentee ballot for any reason for 10 years.
Two weeks after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Vote By Mail into law, he personally donated $51.5 million to a ballot initiative committee tasked with soliciting votes for his signature policy proposal: a graduated income tax system that would allow Illinois to tax income at increasingly higher rates. The committee is sending out mailers encouraging voters to use the Vote By Mail program, and WTTW quoted the head of the group as saying: “I’m not going to lie… we want individuals who are going to support the fair income tax.”
Case filings are available here: Cook County Republican Party v. Pritzker
Complaint, Aug 10, 2020
Memorandum Opinion and Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction Sept 17, 2020