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State Senate race omitted from vote-by-mail ballots in Will County

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(The Center Square) – A candidate for Illinois’ 19th Senate District discovered her name isn’t on some Will County vote-by-mail ballots, but it’s not just her name that was missing. The ballots were missing the entire race.

Samantha Gasca is a candidate in the Republican primary for the 19th Senate District. A voter in the district approached Gasca and told her there was no race on her vote-by-mail ballot.

“This could have been a plain mistake, but at the same time these mistakes are made in contested Republican races and when it happens to Democrats, they do a voter recall,” Gasca told The Center Square. “They’ll stop the race.”

Gasca pointed out a 2024 judicial primary race in Cook County where early voting was paused because Democrat Ashonta Rice, who was running for Cook County circuit court judge, appeared on the ballot after a state board of elections decision, but a judge ruled against Rice appearing on the ballot and sided with an objector in an appeal.

“The same measures aren’t taken for Republicans,” said Gasca, who also pointed out the U.S. Senate general election where Kathy Salvi’s name was not listed on ballots in Schuyler County. Peggy Hubbard’s name was listed instead. Hubbard was defeated by Salvi in the primary.

Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the Cook County voter recall was issued because it’s a different scenario.

“It was not a case of an error on the part of the election authority, it was a case of a court order saying, ‘As of this date remove this candidate,’” said Dietrich.

Charles Pelkie, the chief of staff for the Will County Clerk’s Office, said 60 faulty vote-by-mail ballots went out but they sent corrected ballots to the affected precinct.

Pelkie said the clerk’s office responded quickly and pointed out there are about 60 precincts in the 19th Senate District and that faulty vote-by-mail ballots were only sent out to one precinct, Frankfort 17. The race was constantly adjusted, Pelkie said, because there were multiple ballot challenges, which was a contributing factor as to why the mistake was made.

“It impacted a limited number of voters from one precinct,” Pelkie told The Center Square.

Pelkie said they corrected the mistake within the day and along with a corrected ballot they sent out a letter from the clerk’s office explaining the error and encouraged voters to send back the correct ballot. The error will not impact election day or early voting ballots, he said.

Gasca said she is working with attorneys to see what more can be done to remedy the mistake.

“People say, ‘it’s not that big of a deal,’ well number one there’s low voter turnout [historically in primaries] and this is a three-man race,” she said. “You’re splitting a ton of votes and you could win or lose a race by 50 votes, 10 votes or a single vote.”

Forty-two Republican ballots and 18 Democratic ballots were sent that didn’t have the race. Three Democratic ballots and 11 Republican ballots have been corrected and replaced. If the clerk’s office does not receive the other half of the faulty ballots, then those other races on the faulty ballot will still be counted.

Dietrich said local election authorities can reach out to the state board of elections’ general counsel.

“In this case the election authority caught the mistake, and it affects the mail ballot and their remedy is to reach out to every voter who received the misprinted ballot, replace it, so from our perspective it appears they have handled this appropriately,” said Dietrich.

The 19th Senate District race is one of five contested Republican primaries for the state Senate. Hillary Mattsey Kurzawa and Max Solomon join Gasca on the Republican primary ballot for the 19th.

Solomon said in a statement the error “is unfortunate and a disservice to the voters of Will County.”

“It is my hope that all affected voters would be notified and given an opportunity to vote in person tomorrow,” Solomon said. “I am not a fan or advocate of vote by mail or ‘mail-in-ballots’ and issues like this only go to further cement my position on it – a reminder that we need an urgent review of our voting processes. I encourage all voters who are able to vote in person at their polling places on election day.”

State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, is the incumbent and is uncontested in the Democratic primary.

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