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GOP challenges two La Salle County vote totals

Yednock, Martin wins questioned after COVID-19 strikes oversight panel

Voters fill booths Nov. 3 at the Oglesby Elks.
Voters fill booths Nov. 3 at the Oglesby Elks.

La Salle County Republicans are challenging two races, for state’s attorney and state representative, saying County Clerk Lori Bongartz tabulated some votes without proper oversight.

The La Salle County Republican Central Committee filed an action against Bongartz on Friday in La Salle County Circuit Court. Dates are pending, but the case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Joseph P. Hettel.

The filing argues Republican incumbent state’s attorney Karen Donnelly and Travis Breeden, a Republican challenger for statehouse, both were leading at the time the county’s precincts were tabulated. At that point, Bongartz “submitted a flash drive containing all mail-in ballots processed by her office to be included into these totals.”

The addition of the mail-in ballots swung the election in favor of Todd Martin, Democratic challenger for state’s attorney, and state Rep. Lance Yednock, an Ottawa Democrat.

Now, the GOP thinks at least some of those late-entry votes may have been invalid. Here’s why: Mail-in votes are subject to review by a panel of election judges. Such a panel was established and in operation until Oct. 30, at which point at least one judge contracted COVID-19 and the panel was halted.

William Hotopp, attorney for the GOP, said the results cannot be certified until the mail-in ballots received after Oct. 30 can be verified, something Bongartz failed to do.

“(Bongartz) had no authority to process these ballots without review by election judges duly appointed and sworn under oath,” Hotopp said in the filing.

Bongartz, Martin and Yednock all were reached after-hours but declined comment. Messages left for Donnelly were not returned before press time Friday night.

Breeden said he did inquire about the outcome and the legality of the tabulation, but said he had no direct hand in Friday’s filing and deferred all comment to Larry Smith, chairman of the La Salle County Republican Central Committee.

“We just believe there were irregularities in the election system,” Smith said, “and the way to work that out is in the judicial system.”

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