Incumbent Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham disputes challenger Douglas Warlick’s claims that election laws were not followed in 2020 as “baseless” and shows that his challenger does not understand the process.
Warlick is challenging Cunningham on the June 28 primary ballot for the Republican nomination. The winner will vie with Democrat Nicolas Jimenez in the Nov. 8 General Election for county clerk.
Warlick said the problem with the 2020 election was that Cunningham instructed election judges not to accept provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots were not initialed by the election judges.
“I’m no conspiracy theorist,” Warlick said, referring to those who insist that Biden didn’t win the presidency. “I’m not making it a Trump issue or a conspiracy theory. … Things happened that were not supposed to happen.”
Cunningham said the problem is not that he did anything wrong, but that Warlick doesn’t understand the election process and repeats misinformation.
“It’s technical and hard to comprehend. If you’ve not been in the business, you’re not understanding the process,” Cunningham said. “We followed the law to the letter.”
Provisional ballots are for voters who believe they are registered to vote, but their names are not on the electoral roll at the precinct. It could also mean they are at the wrong precinct. Their eligibility to vote is determined after the election.
If a voter’s registration became dormant or the voter card was returned in the mail, that is when provisional voting was used, Cunningham said.
“We did not have provisional ballots until after 2000,” Cunningham said. “In 2017, we got voter registration at the polling places … election day registration. So that is a more efficient way – labor wise – instead of having to go provisional.”
Regarding judges not initialing mail-in ballots, Cunningham said the statutes can be confusing.
“We are not required by law to have write-in ballots initialed,” Cunningham said. “Another section (of state law) states that if there are paper ballots in a precinct, they have to be initialed.”
Cunningham said people can still vote provisionally, but Election Day voter registration is more labor efficient.
Warlick said other counties did provisional ballots – including Cook County, which had thousands.
“Only Kane did not do this, among high-population counties,” Warlick said.
Another aspect of allowing a provisional ballot is if a voter shows up to vote in person, but records show he has already voted by mail.
“What you’re supposed to do is permit the voter to vote using a provisional ballot,” Warlick said.
Cunningham said that is another indication of Warlick’s lack of understanding.
“We ran a good election. He may not agree with it, but I stand by the election as one of the best elections we’ve ever had,” Cunningham said. “We’re making improvements to be more transparent, but these baseless claims – I’m not talking about them anymore.”
In terms of mail-in ballots being initialed, Cunningham’s office bought machines in preparation for the 2020 election that checked mailed ballots at a rate of 600 per minute, spitting out any that either were not signed or did not have a matching signature on file.
But Warlick called Cunningham’s reliance on machines to process mailed-in ballots “invites skepticism and is at best, called sloppy.”
Warlick insisted each ballot should have been checked and initialed by three judges, “so we feel confident.”
“They should still hand-check it. The machine is not supposed to be the sole basic way to check signatures. We should not rely solely on machines,” Warlick said. “We want to represent all the voters of Kane County and we want people to feel the election was honest.”
Cunningham said it takes an election judge 15 minutes to open an envelope and count by hand.
In an interview in October 2020, Cunningham said if he had not invested in automation, he would have needed 20,000 man hours to process more than 80,000 mail-in ballots and results would not have been available until February.
“It’s a bunch of misinformation,” Cunningham said of Warlick and others who insist something was wrong with how Kane County handled the 2020 election. “Basically, someone misunderstands and people send out malinformation.”