clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

‘Incorrect info’ interpreted ‘incorrectly’ blamed for latest voter registration screw-up — affecting former prison inmates

The snafu stems from a data-matching error between the state’s election board and the Illinois Department of Corrections. Individuals were incorrectly categorized as currently incarcerated when in fact they had completed their sentences and been discharged, officials said.

A lone voter makes his way to a North Side polling place in 2015. File Photo.
A lone voter makes his way to a North Side polling place in 2015. File Photo.
Craig Newman/Sun-Times

Hundreds of former Illinois prison inmates had their voter registrations mistakenly canceled.

The Illinois State Board of Elections on Monday notified 59 state election authorities that 774 people who were formerly incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections might be subject to erroneous cancellations due to a data error.

The largest number of the cancellations — 245 — came from Cook County.

The snafu stems from a data-matching error between the state’s election board and the Illinois Department of Corrections. Individuals were incorrectly categorized as currently incarcerated when in fact they had completed their sentences and been discharged, officials said.

Under Illinois law, voting rights are suspended while a person is in prison, but the rights are restored upon release — but the individual must re-register to vote. This also includes those who have been released on parole, mandatory supervised release and on condition of electronic monitoring.

Board spokesman Matt Dietrich said the state found out about the cancellations in November when officials were reviewing the data the Department of Corrections sent. Dietrich said the problem stemmed from the department giving the elections board “incorrect info, but at the same time we’re taking info and interpreting it incorrectly.”

The state electoral board incorrectly identified the 774 people as being actively incarcerated at the time. After learning of the mistake, the board sent word out to local election authorities to reverse the registration cancellation.

Dietrich said it will be up the local electoral boards to determine if any of the 774 people were removed from the voter rolls for other legitimate reasons, such as failing to report a change of address.

The Board of Elections has “provided each election authority with voter information on the affected individuals so that their registrations can be reviewed for reinstatement by the start of early voting on Feb. 6,” a news release said.

It’s just the latest voter registration-related headache for the state.

Late last month, Republicans and some Democrats called for an investigation into how 545 self-identified non-citizens were mistakenly registered to vote as part of the Illinois’ automatic voter registration program. And last week, the Illinois secretary of state was told to stop allowing 16-year-olds to start the voter registration process.

Despite the series of gaffes, voters shouldn’t be concerned about the integrity of the state’s voter registration system, Dietrich said.

”The earlier issue with [automatic voter registration] has been fixed — we know that we’ve tested it we’re continuing to monitor it,” Dietrich said. “This is something that’s different, this had nothing to do with the voter registration process, it had to do with our mistake that may have led to these jurisdictions cancelling registrations who should not have had their registrations cancelled.”