URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - Illinois election officials scolded a Champaign County official for counting early votes before Election Day, which is against Illinois law.
Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, a Democrat, was accused of tabulating early votes beginning the night before the election. A first summary report of results from the primary election had a time stamp of 10:19 p.m. on Monday, March 16.
In a email sent to Ammons and obtained by The News-Gazette, the Illinois State Board of Elections had strong words for his alleged actions.
“I understand the tabulation issue from last Tuesday’s general primary election is one in a series of voting irregularities in Champaign County that has occurred in relation to this election, including failures to comply with Election Code provisions and best practices governing mail voting, the public testing of voting equipment and the order of certain candidates on ballots,” ISBE general counsel Marni Malowitz said.
Malowitz added the early counting of votes "increased scrutiny of your office" and told Ammons he needs to improve his knowledge of Illinois election laws "in order to prevent additional issues in this and future election cycles".
Matt Dietrich, spokesman for ISBE, said increased scrutiny means "everyone is watching that office more closely". He added Champaign County was the only county to have such issues in the 2020 Illinois primary election.
"We are aware that they have had those problems, and we are hearing from third parties about those problems," he said.
Vote-by-mail ballots can be processed when they're received, Malowitz said in the letter, but processing results can't be counted until after 7 p.m. on election day. The restriction exists to keep people from manipulating election results and to ensure political parties, candidates and qualified civic organizations can have a poll watcher be there when officials count ballots.
“If votes are tabulated prior to election day or even before the closure of the polls on election day, an individual with knowledge of the ballots cast for a particular candidate or proposition could use the information nefariously,” Malowitz said. “Even if early tabulations are not disclosed, however, preventing the appearance of potential impropriety is imperative to maintain public confidence in the election process.”
The News-Gazette was unable to reach Ammons for comment Tuesday.