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Central Illinois election authorities double down on commitment to integrity, transparency

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BLOOMINGTON -- Local election authorities met in Bloomington on Tuesday to show their commitment to election integrity and transparency ahead of the 2024 primary and general elections. The Illinois State Board of Elections hosted a news conference at the McLean County Government Center, with county clerks from throughout Central Illinois. Bloomington-Normal NAACP banquet brings local, national civil rights activists together They met as part of a joint effort between the state, local election authorities and county clerks to answer questions from the public, provide context to the inner workings of election management and dispel the spread of disinformation. Similar events were held Tuesday at the Tazewell County Justice Center as well as the LaSalle County Board Chambers, and there are plans for another event Wednesday at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana. "We have county board members here, which we appreciate very much, and members from the party affiliations are here and that's what's important, when you can see us as people and that we're here and hopefully you believe us," said McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael. Other county officials included Logan County Clerk Theresa Moore, LaSalle County Clerk Jennifer Ebner, Marshall County Clerk Jill Kenyon, Putnam County Clerk Tina Dolder, Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman and Stark County Clerk Heather Hollis. Ackerman said since 2016 election authorities have faced unprecedented scrutiny about outside interferences as well as election procedures and policies. "We stand here today as Illinois election officials united in our hope (that) we can proactively work with the public to stop election misinformation before the 2024 presidential election, breaking the cycle rather than allowing it to continue," Ackerman said. "We don't mind oversight, and we welcome your questions form the public, however we've been forced to talk too much misinformation." Although election turnouts have been growing over the last several years, Ackerman said misinformation and blind speculation about election procedures and processes are still continuing in communities across the state and country. Carius: Front Street has become a popular destination for dining, entertainment Ackerman and others said they are committed to providing transparency on the local and state level and election authorities will be willing to answer any questions, show the equipment and talk through their policies and procedures with anyone. "We want to see those numbers continue to increase, and we can only do that by being open and honest with the public, being transparent and having you come in and see for yourself how our elections are run here in the state of Illinois," Ackerman said. Michael said her first experience with misinformation was during the general election in 2016 when there was a report floating around social media about a polling place on Illinois State University's campus running out of ballots during the day. Since that incident, the McLean County Clerk's office now has social media monitors who comb through social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit to find any rumors and dispel them as quick as possible, she said. Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS Feed | Omny Studio "We're here to help (let) you know how much we care about election integrity here in Illinois, and we've never had any allegations of voter fraud ... and you can verify that, too," Michael said. As for the safety and security of election authorities and judges, Ackerman said unlike other battleground states, Illinois is less divisive when it comes to political disagreements, and even though they do have individual incidents within their offices, it is not on the same level as other national stories of threats being used to deter election officials. Coroner IDs teen killed in Bloomington stabbing Michaels said this is also the first year that a few election judges have started to ask about the security parameters at precincts. She said she has been in contact with the McLean County Sheriff's Office and city of Bloomington about arranging more patrols around precincts in the city and throughout the county. For example, the polling area at the Government Center is a wide open space with windows surrounding all sides and does not provide substantial security in the building, Michael said. To ease concerns, the sheriff's office provides a deputy to stand at the precinct all day to act as security but also a visible deterrent for anyone wanting to cause trouble, Michael said. "The sheriff and the city of Bloomington will have additional staff, we're told, to keep an eye on them, but I think this year it's starting to become more of a concern," Michael said. "This is the climate that we live in and this is how we're trying to get ahead of it by working with our great police offices who are going to do extra duty during election time." Ammons said he and others created a Safe Vote Coalition in Champaign County that brings together different government entities to help train election judges on what kind of speech is allowed in precincts and how to communicate with each other when a situation arises. "If we're in a space now where we're taking a hands-off laissez-faire type of approach (as if) it's not going to happen here or it never has, then that's just an invitation, I believe, for someone to come here and try to do something inappropriate, nefarious or dangerous to harm someone," Ammons said. "We train the judges on various different things on how to communicate using words that none of you would recognize, but if you were an election judge, you would recognize that that means an immediate call to 911." Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said the Illinois State Police's Intelligence Command, which includes the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, has a staff member from the state board of elections who works alongside them and monitors any false or dangerous information on social media. They also have contact with the large social media entities and work with them to watch for certain keywords specific to Illinois and identify misinformation, Dietrich added. "The election misinformation and disinformation that we've seen in the last few years not only hinders these officials in performing their duties, but it also has had the more harmful effect ... of needlessly eroding public confidence in the integrity of our election system," Dietrich said. The need for election judges in McLean County also has increased as the Bloomington Election Commission and the McLean County Clerk's Office have added precincts in recent year, which require about 100 additional judges, Michael said. This is partly being addressed by the state with increased funding to pay elections judges for their service and provide them with up to $220, Michael said. Photos: Intercity Volleyball tournament at Normal West High School Contact Mateusz Janik at (309) 820-3234. Follow Mateusz on Twitter:@mjanik99 Love 0 Funny 0 Wow 0 Sad 0 Angry 0 Tags Elections Mclean County Election Authorities Integrity Transparency Bloomington Government Center Illinois State Board Of Elections Central Illinois Clerks Misinformation Threats Election Judges Precincts Politics Government Departments And Ministries Job Market Law Police Internet Sports Sociology Be the first to know Get local news delivered to your inbox! Sign up! * I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy. Mateusz Janik Government Reporter Author email Follow Mateusz Janik Close Get email notifications on {{subject}} daily! Your notification has been saved. There was a problem saving your notification. {{description}} Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items. 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