September 26, 2018

UPDATE: After receiving our letter, the Kendall County Clerk’s Office said they will remove the misleading and confusing instructions from its website telling voters to bring ID to the polls. They also committed to training their election judges that ID is not required to vote. However – if you were improperly turned away from the polls due to lack of ID, we would like to hear from you. You can contact us here. 

With early voting set to begin this week in the 2018 midterm elections, Kendall County Clerk Debbie Gillette is being called out for providing “misleading and confusing instructions” to voters regarding identification requirements to vote in the County. A flyer distributed by the Clerk’s office suggests that all voters “be prepared” to present ID in order to vote. The same information appears on the Clerk’s website.  The ACLU is calling on the information to be corrected as soon as possible. 

Photo IDs are not generally required to vote in Illinois. 

“Illinois policy makers have rejected the sort of stringent requirements on photo identification cards that limit access to the polls,” said Amy Meek, staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois and author of the letter.  “All county clerks – including in Kendall County – must make clear to voters that they will not be denied the right to vote just because they lack identification.”

A number of individuals and groups have expressed concerns about a mailer sent previously by the Kendall County Clerk’s office instructing all voters to “be prepared to present [appropriate] identification to the election judge” at their local polling place.  This instruction ignores the reality that Illinois law generally does not require voters to present an identification card when they vote.  They are required only to state their name and address, and provided that they are on the precinct’s list of registered voters, nothing more is required. 

There are limited circumstances in which a voter can be asked for identification – including for voters registering on Election Day and those voting for the first time after registering by mail.  Even in these instances, a voter who lacks ID is permitted to cast a provisional ballot. 

“The phrasing of the Kendall County Clerk’s mailer suggests that voters may be turned away if they do not have an identification card,” added the ACLU’s Meek. “We have heard disturbing reports of election judges turning eligible voters away from the polls based on a lack of ID. If true, these reports indicate that poll workers do not understand the law in this area.” 

“As early voting begins, the Clerk should take immediate steps to clear up any confusion.”

The letter notes that voter identification requirements have been shown to have a disproportionate and unfair impact on low-income, racial and ethnic minority voters, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and others who lack the resources or ability to access a photo identification card. 

A copy of the letter to Clerk Gillette is available here