Editor’s Note: The following is Part 2.5 of a three-part series featuring candidate stories from a three-night virtual forum event hosted by the DeKalb County League of Women Voters and WNIJ radio and the DeKalb Public Library. Print coverage of Thursday’s final night of DeKalb County Board candidates ahead of the Nov. 8 General Election will run in Saturday’s print paper. Read part 1 about DeKalb County Board candidates for Districts 1, 3 and 4 here. Read part 2.5 about the Illinois state representative for District 76 race here. Visit www.shawlocal.com/news/election for more.
Full video recordings of all three nights’ forums can be found on WNIJ’s Facebook page.
DeKALB – Voting accessibility and election judge shortages were among topics debated by candidates Linh Nguyen, a Democrat, and Tasha Sims, a Republican, during this week’s forum for DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Sims of Kingston is an executive assistant in the DeKalb County Administration Office and has worked in county government for almost 15 years, including in the county clerk’s office as deputy clerk.
The pair each had a chance to rally for voters during a virtual forum Wednesday, the second in a three-part series put on this week by the DeKalb County League of Women Voters, the DeKalb Public Library and WNIJ.
The candidates discussed voting accessibility and what changes they would like to make if elected.
Sims said she believes the county always can do better, although she believes the clerk’s office does a good job of it now. She said it’s important voters know when and where to vote, and that the office get that out as soon as possible. She spoke about new software installed in the clerk’s office that allows voters to request a mail-in ballot from the online portal.
“I think we’re allowing a lot of accessibility right now,” Sims said. “I know there’s always room for improvement no matter what. ... I think that the elections office has the new platinum software that they’re using. That new portal, which is constantly being updated and revamped and has so many new tools now, that a voter has the access at their fingertips to know what their ballot looks like, where they need to go.”
Nguyen stressed that the county clerk is doing a good job but said communication is key. Nguyen said she receives weekly data from the clerk’s office that shows more than 9,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been sent out to DeKalb County voters.
“I think the current county clerk and the state law allow a lot of opportunity for people to access voting,” Nguyen said. “I think emphasizing on communication and getting the information out there that early voting is going on and vote-by-mail is safe and secure and is an option that you can get the ballot, study it and vote at your own convenience and mail it back.”
Both Nguyen and Sims were asked about navigating the election judge shortage. Ahead of the June primary, the clerk’s office reported that more than 100 election judges were still needed to work the polls on election day.
“If we want to encourage more people to volunteer to be election judges, we need to pay them better,” Nguyen said. “We need to pay them well.”
Election judges receive a base pay of $110 and an additional $40 if they attend a training course, according to the clerk’s website. Judges can also be reimbursed for supplies or mileage they incur per precinct.
Sims suggested the clerk’s office could work with the DeKalb County Regional Office of Education to solicit more judges and acknowledged it’s an ongoing struggle to staff.
“It is a long day, like I said, but it’s so gratifying to know that you’re part of this process,” Sims said. “It can be fun, so just trying to get the message out, trying to make sure that we’re not only getting election judges but trying to train them properly and trying to retain them. It’s important.”
At the end of the forum, Nguyen and Sims were asked if President Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
“Yes, Biden won,” Nguyen said.
“Like it or not, I believe in the constitution of the United States and he took the oath of office and he’s currently our president,” Sims said.
Sims’ answer led to some Democrat-fueled criticism, however, with some saying her response hadn’t been a clear enough statement.
“I’m horrified,” DeKalb County Democratic Party chairman Anna Wilhelmi said Wednesday after the forum. “It was totally unexpected. Unless she totally states publicly it was a mistake, she is an election denier.”
When asked Thursday whether she stands by her remarks, Sims said yes and that she believes the results of the election process proved that Biden won. She said she also stands behind DeKalb County’s election process.
“There has not been any evidence here of any improprieties in the 2020 election, and I stand behind the DeKalb County election results,” Sims said in a statement. “Additionally, I stand behind my comments regarding Biden because his election victory was validated through the Constitutional election process.”