Is Your Right Not to Vote Endangered in Illinois?

Well, Illinois voter, say you go to the polls and you decide you don’t like any of the candidates for lt. governor or secretary of state but you are all fired up about your choice for governor. So, you just don’t want to vote for the ones you don’t like but you darn sure want to vote for the ones you DO like. Guess what? If certain authorities in Illinois have their way your vote won’t count at all. It’ll be flagged as an undervote, kicked out of the machine, and you’ll be urged to complete the ballot whether you want to or not.

As a result of Public Act 95-699, passed in 2007, a ballot that is fed into the voting machine that has any of the Constitutional offices left un-marked will be kicked out as an undervote. At this point the voter will be informed in front of everyone that they didn’t chose a candidate for all the major offices and will be informed that he should complete the ballot. In fact, the vote cannot even be counted unless the judge depresses a special button to allow the vote to go through with an undervote.

Critics say that these hoops that must be jumped through denies the voter the right not to vote for whatever office they don’t want to vote for. Further, it sets up the situation where voters can be strong armed by unscrupulous election judges into voting for candidates for whom they do not really want to vote. It sets up the possibility that the voter can be intimidated into going back to the booth and continue voting when they really don’t want to. Just imagine, for instance, the intimidation and control a connected Chicago election judge will likely impose on voters unsure of their rights.

But worse than all of that is the fact that this notification procedure alerts the judge — and anyone else listening at the polling place — that the voter didn’t vote for one of the constitutional offices thereby compromising some of the secrecy of the voter’s ballot.

As mentioned, the law was passed in 2007, but authorities are saying that for the 2010 election they are trying to fully implement it. The reason authorities give for all this is that voters might be confused or may have simply made a mistake in their vote. The state election law is being jiggered to “help” voters, or so goes the logic. Undervoting, overvoting, both are flagged to give voters a second chance to fill out the ballot. But this drilling down the undervote notification to just the constitutional offices and the whole announcing of the deal is simply a step too far toward voting for dummies!

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