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Jesse White addresses statewide automatic voter registration issues

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says he is sorry for the programming error within the state's Automatic Voter Registration system. That error caused 574 non-U.S. citizens to be registered to vote, causing headaches for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

White says the error was fixed the same day it was discovered in December. Testifying before the Senate Executive Committee Wednesday morning, White said his office will make sure this doesn't happen again.

"I'm angry at what happened," White said. "I've put my staff on notice that zero tolerance will be the order of the day for the Secretary of State's Office going forward."

What happened?

White's legal advisor Nathan Maddox says each of the 574 individuals checked NO on the U.S. citizenship question, even though a number of the people are citizens who voted in the past. As soon as they checked NO, the Automatic Voter Registration system halted. But Maddox says there was a glitch in the system, sending their information to the State Board of Elections as if they were citizens.

"What we didn't have in place was a line of code that would make sure if you say yes I want to register but either of the answers was no, they were not transferred," Maddox added. "That should have been in place."

Maddox says 15 of the 574 individuals voted and seven of them were U.S. citizens. As far as the eight others left, one person was not a citizen and seven are "undetermined."

"They've done a good job of assuring us that the problem has been caught, the problem has been fixed and it won't happen again or heads are gonna roll," said Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside).

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) thinks the Secretary of State's technology needs constant supervision.

"Please convince me that your testing scenarios are going to be much more improved going forward," Wheeler said.

But Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) stressed employees should have more knowledge about the voter registration system.

"The Secretary of State says there are 2,300 employees. I think they need to put better processes in place to educate these people," added Butler.

Rep. Butler says lawmakers should still look into suspending the AVR system to review and evaluate the process to make sure these issues don't pop up again.

"We want to make sure that not only do we take on the job, but also the responsibility that goes with it. We want to make sure that the individuals who have registered to vote get the opportunity to do so," White explained.

Mike Miletich

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