Voting

Voting machines at Bradley Municipal Center

The Kankakee County State's Attorney's office says it is investigating possible voting fraud after the clerk's office reported three complaints from people who said they were offered bribes for votes.

In a news release issued late Tuesday afternoon, Jamie Boyd, the state's attorney, also said "several" vote-by-mail applications seem to have come from people living outside of Kankakee County.

"This unprecedented action was taken in response to reports of individuals from Chicago offering gifts to potential voters in exchange for a vote for Kate Cloonen, Hillary Clinton and others," Boyd said in the news release. "Our office takes seriously the obligation to protect the rights of citizens to vote for the candidate of their choice, and to do so without undue influence from special interest groups.

"The investigation will also focus on the authenticity of vote by mail requests. Several applications have been filed with the election authority that appear to be fraudulently executed."

Late last week, Kankakee County Clerk Bruce Clark said potential voters were being brought to the clerk's office to vote early.

"Whoever it is should not be doing this," he said. "People should be allowed to come in here and vote without being harassed."

The incumbent in the state rep's race, Democrat Kate Cloonen, is in a highly-contested race against local attorney Lindsay Parkhurst, a Republican.

"These reports of voter fraud in Kankakee are incredibly disturbing," Pankhurst said. "Fair and honest elections are the bedrock of our democracy. It is truly deplorable when people try to corrupt our system in this manner."

Cloonen has not responded to the allegations, but local Democrats Gary Ciaccio and Mike Smith, both union reps, and former state Rep. Lisa Dugan, released their own statement on Tuesday, alleging that voters have been illegally turned away from the polls.

"We know many legally registered voters have been turned away from voting over the last few days," they said in that joint statement. "Since early voting for the 2016 General Election began just a few short days ago, there have been numerous reports and eyewitness accounts of harassment and intimidation by local government officials of residents trying to participate in the democratic process of voting."

It is a felony to try to coerce or influence a voter and Boyd, a Republican, who lost his bid this year to become a judge, said that the clerk's office will not being handing out "I voted" stickers in an effort to stem any vote-buying efforts.