Posted Online: April 20, 2011, 7:12 pm

Eligible voter counts questioned in Rock Island, Mercer counties

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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com

Rock Island and Mercer counties are two of 14 Illinois counties with more registered voters than actual eligible voters, according to a study by the State Board of Elections.

The report says the disparity was revealed by comparing the number of registered voters in each county to the number of people listed in the 2010 Census as being older than 18 and eligible to vote.

Rock Island County lists 125,875 registered voters, although Census numbers show the county has only 114,359 residents age 18 or older. That means 11,516 people may be deceased or no longer live in the county, according to Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney.

The report also shows Mercer County has 14,295 registered voters, while Census numbers show the county has only 12,714 residents age 18 or older.

"We have to purge our records sometime this summer," Mercer County Clerk Phyllis Bewley said. "There may be various reasons why the numbers gathered by the Census Bureau did not reflect everyone."

Ms. Kinney, who hasn't seen the report, said her office also plans to purge voter registration files but is waiting until the county board redistricting is completed.

"We're required to issue out new voter registration cards to everybody after redistricting. It didn't make sense to do it before redistricting."

Ms. Kinney said two reasons for more registered voters than residents old enough to vote are deaths or people moving.

"People move out of Rock Island County and nobody notifies us," Ms. Kinney said. "People die and no one notifies us. Those voters stay on file for two federal elections.

"We put them in an inactive file. We don't know if they've passed away, if they've moved," she said. "We have no idea."

Ms. Kinney said there are tens of thousands of registered voters in the county who may no longer live in the county or are deceased.

Ms. Bewley said the discrepancy doesn't mean any foul play has taken place.

"As far as people voting from cemeteries, no, that's not what it means," she said.

Other counties with more registered voters than actual eligible voters are Alexander, Clark, Clinton, Hardin, Jasper, Massac, Menard, Ogle, Pulaski, Richland, Stark and Vermilion.Bernadette Harrington, legal counsel for the ISBE in Springfield said it has sent letters to jurisdictions.

"We have a dialogue to review what they've submitted," she said.