DuPage clerk appeals order on how to verify disputed signatures on mail-in ballots

Jenn Ladisch Douglass, left, and Deanne Mazzochi are candidates for the 45th state House District seat.

DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek wants an appellate court to overturn a judge’s decision to prohibit election workers from using vote-by-mail applications to verify signatures on mail-in ballots.

State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi is suing Kaczmarek, claiming her office was improperly verifying signatures on mail-in ballots. The lawsuit comes as Mazzochi, an Elmhurst Republican, remains in a close race for the 45th state House District seat against Democrat Jenn Ladisch Douglass.

In her lawsuit, Mazzochi argues that the state Election Code requires that signatures on mail-in ballots be verified by using the most recent voter registration record. But Mazzochi’s lawsuit claims the county clerk’s office hasn’t complied with the statute.

Last week, DuPage County Judge James Orel granted Mazzochi’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the clerk’s office “from using any signature on a vote by mail application in connection with validating signatures.” In explaining the rationale for his ruling, the judge said using a vote-by-mail application to validate signatures on the vote-by-mail ballot itself “would be an obvious way to commit ballot fraud.”

At the time, there were still late-arriving mail-in ballots to be counted in DuPage, where most of the 45th District is located. A small portion goes into Cook County.

Ladisch Douglass has a narrow lead in both counties, unofficial vote tallies show.

Kaczmarek initially appealed Orel’s Nov. 15 ruling to the state Supreme Court. But the high court on Monday refused to order Orel to vacate his decision.

“I am pleased that the Illinois Supreme Court rejected the clerk’s motion for a supervisory order,” Mazzochi said in a statement Tuesday. “Hopefully, now the clerk will finally realize that she must run elections according to what the law actually requires and end her convoluted record of substandard practices, which the circuit court here has recognized would be an obvious pathway to vote-by-mail fraud.”

Still, the matter is not yet resolved.

On Friday, Kaczmarek filed an appeal with the state 3rd District Appellate Court to overturn Orel’s decision. Meanwhile, the two sides are due back in DuPage court on Wednesday afternoon.

At last week’s DuPage court hearing, Pat Bond, the attorney for Kaczmarek, argued that the court did not have the jurisdiction to rule on Mazzochi’s suit. He also said that the signature on an application for a vote-by-mail ballot is part of a voter’s registration record.

Bond could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Tuesday was the last day for the clerk to count mail-in and provisional ballots.

The District 45 race remains close, according to The Associated Press. It says that with 95% of the vote counted, Douglass has 50.2% of the votes to Mazzochi’s 49.8%.