The LaSalle County Republican Party is raising questions in a lawsuit filed today about how the County Clerk’s Office handled mail-in ballots. Party Chairman Larry Smith says adding more than 11,000 mail-in ballots after all the precincts were counted on election night changed results in two races.
At first, it looked like Republican Karen Donnelly won reelection as State’s Attorney and Republican Travis Breeden won the Illinois House 76th District seat. But the office tallied votes again later and Democrats Todd Martin and Lance Yednock won those respective races.
Lara Landrum, identifying herself as a paid election worker, submitted an affidavit saying another woman at the County Clerk’s office was busily opening numerous mail-in ballots without supervision that night. Smith’s part of the complaint alleges no election judges processed mail-in ballots for three days after another set of judges contracted the coronavirus. He says there’s no accounting for what happened with those ballots.
County Clerk Lori Bongartz, a Democrat, denies that anyone handled ballots unsupervised. She says she followed all the rules and at least one Democrat and at least one Republican examined each mail-in ballot. She says she added the approximately 11,000 ballots at the end of the night as per instructions from the Illinois State Board of Elections. Some of them were received during the period when election judges were out because of the pandemic.
The court case asks a judge to order Bongartz to preserve all documents, computer files, envelopes, and everything else related to the election. And Smith wants an order halting certification of the results. However, Bongartz says she already certified results on November 17.
As of this afternoon, the case is assigned to Joe Hettel but has no hearing date yet. He’s one of two local circuit judges the LaSalle County Republican Party urged voters to oust in their retention bids. Judges don’t pick the cases they’ll take when they’re filed. The Circuit Clerk’s Office assigns them randomly through a lottery type system. Circuit Clerk Greg Vaccaro is a Republican.
Smith said the party’s central committee wanted to see more Republicans holding all offices, including judgeships. But the party didn’t persuade enough people to vote against Hettel for him to lose his job. The other circuit judge targeted, Gene Daugherity, also won retention.