Macon County Sheriff Election: Irregularities in Elections (Part 1)

Written by Kristi Shaffer

The right to vote is nearly sacred in the United States. Elections are closely monitored for an accurate count and assurance that the voices of the people are heard. At least that is the intended outcome of the election process, but, far too often, things go awry. Many of us watched back-and-forth recounts, audits, and legal battles in various states over the 2020 presidential election. However, there was a battle right here in Illinois for election legitimacy of which few were aware.

In the 2018 election for Macon County Sheriff, the final decision was rendered in court in June of 2021. After more than two-and-a-half years of back-and-forth legal battles, the Republican candidate, Jim Root, was recognized as the duly elected Sheriff instead of Democrat Tony Brown, who initially had been declared the winner.

The disputed election began in November of 2018 in Macon County, Illinois. At the close of election day, Jim Root was ahead by approximately 99 votes; however, mail-in ballots had not been counted. According to Illinois state law, those ballots must be postmarked on election day, but can be received for up to two weeks following the election. When the mail-in ballots were counted, Democrat Tony Brown was declared the winner by one vote – 19,655 to 19,654. This tiny margin of victory would lead to a lengthy process of discovery and recounts, finally ending in a lawsuit to determine the accuracy of the vote.

Concerned there had been an inaccurate count and potential fraud, Jim Root filed a Verified Election Contest Petition on December 19, 2018. Root claimed in his petition that there were several “mistakes and fraud…committed in the casting and counting of ballots for the Sheriff of Macon County.” He requested a Discovery Recount that took a sample of the ballots that would make up no more than 25 percent of the county’s precincts.

The legal process in such matters is tedious at best. After Root filed his discovery request, Tony Brown filed a motion to dismiss in January 2019. Macon County Clerk Josh Turner subsequently filed a motion for dismissal in March of 2019. Both requests for dismissal were denied. Brown took the case to the appellate court and was again denied on October 15, 2019. The case was ready to be heard in court in January of 2020.

As often occurs in this type of dispute, the two parties agreed that a full recount should occur. Initially, the parties believed the recount would be completed by March 2020, but this didn’t happen, as the Covid-19 pandemic had arrived in the United States. On March 9, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker declared Illinois a disaster area and announced his series of stay-at-home executive orders, the first of which began on March 21, 2020. The resulting shutdown meant the recount process was significantly delayed.

The legal process is rarely one-dimensional. During the court hearings in 2019, Illinois Conservative Union (ICU) members requested data from the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE). Federal law established by the National Voters Registration Act gives citizens the right to access the voter rolls within their state. This valuable information would verify if the election board maintained accurate voter rolls. Inaccurate rolls could have played a part in the Macon County Sheriff’s election and elections throughout the state. Despite the law’s provisions, the ISBE denied access to the information. This denial led to Attorney David J. Shestokas filing suit on behalf of the ICU. The attorney for the ISBE was Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D). Unbelievably, Illinois citizens were denied access to their voting rolls by the state board and their own elected Attorney General.

On the November 3, 2021 Illinois Family Action Spotlight podcast with Monte Larrick, Attorney Shestokas, who has recently announced his intention to run for Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General, noted that the lack of transparency in the voter rolls could lead to nefarious actions and potential fraud in Illinois elections. Shestokas states, “Early data indicated 26 counties of the 102 counties in Illinois had more people registered to vote than lived in the county of voting age.” Attorney General Raoul and the ISBE refused to share data on the rolls despite this evidence.

Court documents in the initial request for discovery regarding the Macon County Sheriff’s election note, “Root alleges that ‘numerous duly qualified voters in Macon County were wrongly denied their right to vote in the election, and numerous individuals who were not qualified to vote wrongly voted.'” The question remains, if we as citizens are unable to obtain accurate voter rolls, how can we dismiss allegations of potential voter fraud? The judge in the case determined that no evidence of unqualified voters was presented and dismissed that particular charge.

Root’s case would go on without the charge of unqualified voters. However, to rectify future elections, we must ensure voting integrity throughout the state of Illinois. Inflated voter rolls lead to voter fraud and these issues link to the mail-in ballot process. As a result of the inflated rolls, many in Illinois and other states received unrequested mail-in ballots. Some addresses received multiple unrequested ballots. Anyone who had determined to vote fraudulently could have access to multiple ballots. The Attorney General should investigate any irregularities in the rolls, but that is not occurring with Illinois’ current Attorney General.

Take ACTION: The most crucial thing that Illinois voters can do to prevent fraud in elections is to become involved in the process. Nearly every county needs election judges and poll watchers. Contact your local county clerk and learn how you can become involved. Additionally, contact your representative and ask that the ISBE be held to federal law and release all Illinois voter rolls. Groups such as the Illinois Conservative Union (ICU) also need our help to ensure that the voting rolls are accurate. Their case is heading to federal court. Pray that the law is upheld and that Illinois citizens receive proper voter rolls. Continue to follow Illinois Family Action for part 2 of this story.

Read Part 2