With just over a week to go until Election Day, federal prosecutors have launched a hotline for residents in Chicago and the surrounding areas to report any complaints of voter fraud or intimidation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday announced it will participate in election monitoring in the federal, state and local races on Nov. 3. John Lausch, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said his office will run a pair of phone lines to take in any complaints.
“A crucial part of our democracy is the integrity of our electoral system,” Lausch said in a statement. “A citizen who is entitled to vote should not be hindered or prevented from doing so, and we stand ready to help ensure the sanctity of the process.”
Those hotline numbers, which will be open only on Election Day, are 312-469-6157 and 312-469-6158.
Already, more than 58 million ballots have been cast nationwide, topping the total number of ballots submitted early and via absentee methods in the 2016 election, according to the Associated Press.
“A crucial part of our democracy is the integrity of our electoral system,” said U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch, Jr. “A citizen who is entitled to vote should not be hindered or prevented from doing so, and we stand ready to help ensure the sanctity of the process.”
— U.S. Attorney’s Office (NDIL) (@NDILnews) October 26, 2020
The FBI is also expected to have special agents available in its Chicago Field Office on Election Day to handle any allegations of election fraud or other election-related abuses.
Emmerson Buie Jr., special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, said that while there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, his office is always on the lookout for potential election-related crimes.
“There could be double voting, there could be stuffing the ballot box, there could be attempts to vote by non-citizens, there could also be misconduct of election officials, those are some of the common things you see,” he told WTTW News this month. “We also pay close attention to ensure that people aren’t prevented from casting their vote ... threatened with physical harm or any kind of economic harm.”
Federal election violations include crimes such as: intimidating or bribing voters, buying and selling votes, impersonating voters, altering vote tallies, stuffing ballot boxes, and marking ballots for voters against their wishes or without their input.
The U.S. attorney said these violations carry penalties ranging from one to 10 years in prison, and fines of up to $250,000.
Any actions designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places may also constitute a violation.
Earlier this month, two men were charged in Michigan with multiple felonies for allegedly running a robocall scheme designed to intimidate voters. Those calls were allegedly made across the Midwest, including in Illinois.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has also said residents who believe they’ve received fraudulent communications or are the victims of voter-related fraud should contact his office’s consumer fraud protection hotline: 1-800-386-5438 (Chicago), 1-800-243-0618 (Springfield) or 1-800-243-0607 (Carbondale).