LaSalle County Government Complex (Courthouse)

LaSalle County Etna Road Government Complex (LaSalle County photo)

The LaSalle County Republican Central Committee filed a lawsuit last week against Democratic LaSalle County Clerk Lori Bongartz. The lawsuit alleges that Bongartz's office mishandled vote-by-mail ballots and asked a judge for a temporary restraining order to prevent the election results from being certified.

A judge on Tuesday couldn't grant such an order because the election results were already certified by Bongartz on November 17. The judge did order that the clerk's office maintain all records of the ballots. Another hearing is set for Monday.

Republican Central Committee Chairman Larry Smith alleges that around 11,000 ballots were approved without the proper review by a group of election judges from both parties.

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Smith says one of the election judges who tested positive for COVID-19 informed him that a new panel wasn't formed. A witness, who signed an affidavit, says that she saw mail-in ballots being processed without election judges present on Election Night.

Bongartz acknowledged that a panel of judges did have to stop because of COVID-19, but she says only about a thousand vote-by-mail ballots still had to be verified at that point. Bongartz the remaining ballots were checked and verified properly by election judges.

Prior to a large batch of mail-in ballots being counted on Election night, Republican State's Attorney candidate Karen Donnelly was up by just under 3,000 votes over Democratic challenger Todd Martin. After the large batch of vote-by-mail ballots was counted, Donnelly ended up losing the race by about 2,000 votes. A similar situation occurred in the race for the 76th Illinois House District where Republican Challenger Travis Breeden had a 2,000 vote lead over incumbent Democrat Lance Yednock. Afterward the mail-in ballots were counted, Yednock took the lead with around 3,000 votes.

Bongartz says the whole batch of ballots was verified.

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Smith says the lawsuit isn't about overturning election results, but says if some of the ballots were illegitimate it could change the election results. Attorney Bill Hotopp, who is representing the Republicans in court, hopes that the court will either invalidate the mail-in ballots that allegedly weren't verified or will order that all the main-in ballots be re-checked by election judges and recounted.

Court proceedings are happening in Grundy County because several LaSalle County Judges were up for retention in the election.