Judge learns La Salle County's Nov. 3 votes already certified

Dispute over state’s attorney, state rep races continued to Nov. 30

A dispute over the Nov. 3 election results in La Salle County isn't finished yet -- a hearing resumes Nov. 30 -- but a judge learned Tuesday the results already were certified.

The La Salle County Republican Central Committee last week challenged the race for La Salle County state’s attorney and state representative, won by Democrats Todd Martin and Lance Yednock, respectively. Mail-in votes tabulated late Nov. 3 abruptly swung the races away from incumbent state’s attorney Karen Donnelly and Yednock challenger Travis Breeden, both Republicans.

Tuesday, a lawyer for the GOP asked to have the certification halted, but it was revealed during the emergency hearing the results already were certified. County Clerk Lori Bongartz confirmed later that day she certified the results Nov. 17.

Judge Robert Marsaglia continued the hearing until Nov. 30 and instructed Bongartz to maintain a flash drive containing the mail-in votes as well as any companion records.

The GOP had argued mail-in votes are subject to review by a panel of election judges. Such a panel was established and in operation until Oct. 30, at which point at least one judge contracted COVID-19 and the panel was halted.

“(Bongartz) had no authority to process these ballots without review by election judges duly appointed and sworn under oath,” William Hotopp, attorney for the GOP, wrote in the Friday filing.

The case was assigned to Circuit Judge Joseph P. Hettel, but he recused himself and the case then was reassigned to Marsaglia, a Grundy County judge.

The GOP might try to get Marsaglia to void enough of the mail-in votes to alter the outcomes of the state’s attorney and statehouse races. Totals show Martin received 27,206 votes to Donnelly's 25,111 — a difference of 2,095 votes. In the state representative race, Yednock received 21,849 of his 27,289 votes from La Salle County in the four-county race, while Breeden received 18,365 of 22,911 votes from La Salle County. Overall Yednock has a 4,378 vote difference — 3,484 within La Salle County.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.