PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Associated Press is now saying incumbent Democrat Cheri Bustos has been re-elected to Illinois’ 17th Congressional district, but her opponent is not conceding.
In a press release, the campaign for Esther Joy King says they will wait for absentee vote-by-mail ballots to be counted before they recognize Bustos has won the race.
“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our country,” said Eric Anderson, Esther for Congress campaign manager. “With vote-by-mail ballots still incomplete, there is no good reason to end this campaign. When it is appropriate – and that time is when all the votes are counted – Esther will respond accordingly. Until then, the election authorities must do their job, ensure voters are heard, and ensure that ballot security is a primary consideration.”
King is running on a platform of bipartisan cooperation, jumpstarting the economy and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and solving the healthcare dilemma. The campaign criticized Bustos for not waiting until 100 percent of the vote was in before declaring victory.
The campaign said the race can still end with a King victory or a recount of the vote.
“We are looking at the trends, comparing ratios, voter history, turnout, and timing,” said Brady Smith, Esther for Congress data director. “There are also some serious procedural questions about ballot security and access to data in a number of jurisdictions. As an example, it was at least an hour after Rock Island announced that the votes were counted and kicked everyone out of the clerk’s office before they posted the results to their website, which created a ten thousand vote swing. That may just be an oversight, but it sure doesn’t look good to the typical voter. It’s no wonder so many people simply don’t trust politicians.”
Bustos claimed victory Tuesday night after late precincts came in and pushed her to a 10,000+ vote lead. Denise Mousouris from the Bustos campaign sent a statement responding to King not conceding.
From day one, Congresswoman Bustos has fought for our community, our state and our nation, and is humbled to have won the support of the voters. She considers it the honor of her life to serve the 711,000 residents of this Congressional District, whether they cast their vote for her or did not; whether they are Democrats or Republicans or anywhere in between, and she looks forward to doing all she can to help this region of the state of Illinois and the people who live here. In politics, one candidate wins; another loses. It’s unfortunate, but not a surprise that Congresswoman Bustos’ opponent is attempting to sow misinformation and doubt in the democratic process, just as we are seeing in toxic, partisan rhetoric around the nation. But this is a time for our nation to unite, and the people have spoken. Congresswoman Bustos is honored to have received their support for re-election.Denise Mousouris, Cheri Bustos Campaign Spokesperson
In a press release, Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney said she’s confident in the vote totals for voters taking advantage of vote-by-mail and early voting. She said more than 44,000 votes were cast before Election Day through early voting and vote-by-mail, and nearly 23,000 votes cast on Election Day.
“The Rock Island County Clerk’s Office has earned a reputation of delivering the vote with honesty and integrity,” said Kinney. “We don’t create the law, we follow the law, and we get legal advice from the State’s Attorney’s Office, and we reach out to the State Board of Elections for assistance and guidance.”
Both campaigns sent poll watchers to keep an eye on the process at all voting locations, including the County Clerk’s Office.
She said two faulty memory cards delayed the complete vote count by an hour and a half, but they were able to maintain the integrity of the election despite the issue.
According to unofficial counts, around 1,500 vote-by-mail ballots are currently unreturned, though hundreds of voters may have turned them in to vote in-person on Election Day. Illinois law states any vote-by-mail ballots received through Nov. 17 that are postmarked on or before Election Day can be included in the final count once verified they are verified.
Kinney said election judges will verify the ballots and securely store them until the final count.
“It is mathematically impossible for these ballots to affect the outcome of any county races as currently reported as unofficial results,” Kinney said.
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