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Batavia Cares coordinator upset over ballot mishap

Published: Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010 5:30 a.m. CST

The fact that 21 counties in Illinois – including Kane – missed the deadline to mail out military and overseas ballots bothers the leader of a Batavia organization that offers support to U.S. military members.

Ralph Gebes is the coordinator of Batavia Cares, an organization that strives to support United States Armed Forces members serving around the world and their families.

An Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, Gebes said that situation never should happen.

“It’s just not fair for these guys to be putting their lives on the line, and then they don’t get the ballots out on time,” he said.

Nearly one in five Illinois counties failed to meet the Sept. 18 federal deadline for soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen serving overseas.

Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said Friday that the department remains in talks with the Illinois State Board of Elections regarding the late mailings. She said there still is no decision on whether Illinois would be added to lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Lawsuits have been filed against New York, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Guam.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said Thursday that the ballots were mailed two days late because of a snag that occurred when county board member John Fahy, R-West Dundee, withdrew from the ballot.

Cunningham said if the office had sent out the ballots on time, he would have had to re-mail them later at an additional cost, and said the re-mailing would have gone out Sept. 27 or 28.

But Gebes said that shouldn’t have mattered.

“They have deadlines, and I don’t understand what the problem is,” he said. “If they’re not adhering to their deadlines, it becomes bothersome.”

Gebes said his experience is that those in the military are likely to vote.

The 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act requires states to transmit absentee ballots to military personnel overseas, government employees and other citizens living out of the country who want to vote. County election officials are supposed to send ballots out no later than 45 days before federal elections.

• Reporters Jonathan Bilyk and Brenda Schory and Illinois Statehouse News reports contributed to this story.

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