The circumstances surrounding the registration-related lawsuit filed yesterday by the Illinois GOP in north suburban Lake County are admittedly quite confusing. This is largely due to the unclear and, in some cases, inaccurate information provided by Republican County Clerk ...
The circumstances surrounding the registration-related lawsuit filed yesterday by the Illinois GOP in north suburban Lake County are admittedly quite confusing. This is largely due to the unclear and, in some cases, inaccurate information provided by Republican County Clerk Willard Helander last week. But the following report from Fox Chicago's noon newscast only muddles things further:
Let's go through the problems line by line.
NANCY LOO (co-anchor): There are new allegations of voter fraud in Lake County.
During their press conference yesterday announcing the lawsuit, Republican leaders stood in front of a sign featuring the words "voter fraud" with a red line through it. But what they have is apparent evidence of "voter registration fraud," pointing to around 850 forms deemed fraudulent by the clerk. They argue that those forms call into question a larger pool of 5,000 registrations purportedly submitted by one individual -- Terence LeNoir. But to be clear: the Republicans have offered no evidence of any actual "voter fraud" being committed. They've only expressed vague suspicion that these registrations might lead to fraud on Election Day.
PATRICK ELWOOD (co-anchor): The Illinois Republican Party has a filed a lawsuit asking for about 5,000 early voting ballots to go through background checks.
The lawsuit has nothing to do with "early voting ballots." The Republicans are not alleging that any fraudulent ballots have been cast during the early voting process. Rather, they're asking the circuit court to require the clerk to segregate the 5,000 allegedly "compromised" registrations. They want the voters in that pile to be issued provisional ballots, which are not included in the Election Day voting totals and are only counted after the clerk has verified that the underlying registrations are valid.
ELWOOD: The lawsuit comes after the Lake County Clerk found that 128 people registered to vote from non-existent addresses in a park in Waukegan. A gang leader on the Illinois most-wanted list was also among those registered.
And many of the fraudulent registrations were filed through an organization called Citizen Action/Illinois. That group denies any kind of wrongdoing.
Citizen Action doesn't simply deny wrongdoing -- they deny that LeNoir ever worked for them or that they turned in thousands of registration forms in Lake County. On the other hand, LeNoir did work as a canvass director for SEIU Illinois (which sponsors this website). But as Local 1 communications director Erica Hade told the Lake Villa Review, SEIU was surprised to see him pop up at the center of this controversy:
Hade said in August the union was contacted by the County Clerk's Office about 200 questionable voter registration forms but were told at the time that it appeared to be an isolated incident and there was no mention of LeNoir's name.
"Nobody spoke to us at all about Terry LeNoir," she said.
Hade questions the timing of the lawsuit and believes it may be a politically motivated attempt by the Republican Party to suppress new voter turnout.
In reporting on this story, news outlets need to proceed carefully and ask the right questions. The Republican clerk created the basis for the GOP lawsuit by tying Citizen Action to Lenoir and Lenoir to a pool of 6,000 registration forms. But some of her assertions about the origin of the forms are being called into question by the accused parties and it's the job of the media to figure out where the errors lie -- not simply repeat or, as in the case of the Fox report, exaggerate them.
More importantly, if the Republicans' suspect that this pool of registrations is tied to some organized effort to commit voter fraud, they should be forced to explain how that would actually occur.
If the pool of 5,000 registrations at the center of the lawsuit did come from SEIU, it's very likely that it's made up of low-income or minority residents of the county. It's also likely that few -- if any -- of these registrations are problematic. But the GOP nonetheless seeks to exclude these new voters from the Election Day count. And their underlying evidence is shaky at best. Now that's reason for suspicion.