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Illinois State Board of Elections says 16 non-U.S. citizens voted illegally following ‘programming error’


SPRINGFIELD (ILLINOIS CAPITOL BUREAU) -- Five hundred seventy-four people were accidentally registered to vote in Illinois, even though they are documented immigrants. This trails back to a programming error from the Secretary of State's Office. Now Illinois House Republicans are calling for a hearing to discuss the safety of the state's automatic voter registration system. 

The Illinois State Board of Elections says 16 people may have voted illegally in 2018 and 2019. Many are asking how they were registered to vote and if this error can be prevented in the future.

"As soon as the programming error was discovered, it was fixed," said Secretary of State Spokesman Henry Haupt. "All of the individuals impacted were notified along with the Illinois State Board of Elections and the local election authorities."

Anyone registered under the error should have received a letter in the mail telling them they can't vote. The Secretary of State's Office is working with the Illinois State Board of Elections to remove those names from the voter database, as they should have never appeared before.

"The way that that's supposed to work and the reason that box is there is that if someone checks that, they are instantly excluded from the automatic voter registration system," said Illinois State Board of Elections Spokesman Matt Dietrich.

Dietrich says it is possible some of the 16 people who voted may have checked the non-citizenship box in error, but voting illegally could mean deportation.

The Secretary of State's Office says this was an isolated incident, only impacting one tenth of a percent of those signed up through automatic voter registration. 

"If you make a mistake, you admit to the mistake and you fix it. Then you do everything you can to make sure something never happens again," Haupt said.

Rep. Tim Butler (R-IL) 87th District says it shouldn't have happened at all.

"I don't have the confidence today that the Secretary of State is going to carry out this," Butler said. "I mean, who knows what other problems may be out there with automatic voter registration? This is just one instance."

Automatic voter registration (AVR) was vetoed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016 because he felt there weren't enough safeguards to prevent accidental registration. Lawmakers worked with the Secretary of State's Office to ensure those safeguards would be in place before the bill was signed into law in 2017.

"This has to be a zero tolerance policy on this. We can't have any questions whatsoever," said Butler.

Rep. Butler has not heard back from House Speaker Mike Madigan about his request for an investigative hearing. Senate Republicans also sent a letter to Secretary of State Jesse White on Monday stating, "it is imperative the residents of Illinois know their elections are being managed and conducted in a lawful manner."

Butler hopes everything is cleared up before early voting for the 2020 Primary Election starts on February 6.

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Mike Miletich

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