CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The candidates for county clerk talks about why voters should choose them on election day.
Urbana alderman Aaron Ammons, the Democratic, says voters should choose him because he is passionate about Democracy. He also wants to expand services to students, rural and urban areas.
Republican Matt Grandone, the director of training at the county clerk’s office says experience matters at the local area and he has it.
WCIA 3’s Emily Braun asked both candidates a series of questions…below are those questions and both candidates’ answers to them.
Q: What qualifications do you have that you feel make you well-suited for this position?
Matt Grandone: “I think the fact that I’ve worked in the Champaign County Clerk’s Office for the last four years under current clerk Gordy Hulten puts me in a unique position to understand what actually goes into making sure the office can run smoothly. Also, making sure that people can get their vital records when they’re needed, and that those records are secure…as well as making sure we can work with all of our taxing bodies throughout the county, to make sure that they can get their levies done properly, and make sure that they can distribute the tax dollars to their taxing districts.”
Aaron Ammons: “I think that my tenure as an alderman in the city of Urbana has taught me a lot about budgets and how government works…how to interact with staff, give a vision, and share that vision with them. Also, as a trustee of the 20 billion dollar retirement system board…that also helped me understand how to handle big budgets and work with the staff, and fight on behalf of the retirees. I’ve registered thousands of people to vote. I’ve registered students and community members all over Champaign County. All different things are things I think qualify me for this position.”
Q: Is there anything you would like to change or improve for this office?
Aaron Ammons: “I want to end the pay inequity, and diversify the managerial staff. Right now women are grossly underpaid for doing similar work that men are doing. I also want to bring in women, and women of color, into those decision-making positions. I also want to change and improve the ethics of the office. I also do not believe that the clerk should endorse candidates. I believe the public has a reasonable expectation that the office will be neutral, in the way that judges are supposed to be neutral on the bench.”
Matt Grandone: “I think we do a really good job in the Champaign County Clerk’s Office, but we’re always looking at ways to improve. Number 1, we’re constantly looking at ways to implement more technology into the Champaign County Clerk’s Office…again, both in elections as well as in places like our vitals office. We want to try to use what we call “digital signature capture” for voters when they come into the polling place. Rather than signing on a piece of paper that we then have to create, scan and attach individually to every voter’s records…by using digital signature scans, we can attach those signatures to voters’ records in real time, saving us both time and money both in election prep and after the election.”
Q: What main goal would you like to accomplish as county clerk?
Aaron Ammons: “I want to get us out of this dangerous cross-check system that disenfranchises voters all over the country. That’s a big thing I think we need to change to make sure we have a more robust way to protect personal information and data of voters…as well as protecting their right to vote. And again, they pay inequity for women is a big thing for me.”
Matt Grandone: “Switching over all of our election equipment is the big goal…and it’s the big issue we’re going to be dealing with for the next few years in Champaign County. Most of our election equipment was purchased in 2006, with federal funds that are obviously no longer available. To replace all of our equipment in Champaign County costs a little bit over 1.2 million dollars…so trying to find that money to make sure we can replace our equipment, and constantly be updating it to make sure we’re on the front foot when it comes to things like cyber security, which is one of the hot topics in election security and administration these days.”
Q: In a brief statement, why should voters choose you as the next county clerk?
Matt Grandone: “Because I think experience is what matters at the local level. I think at the state level, the national level, we’ve seen a lot of hyper-partisanship that goes on, but when it comes down to voting for people at the local level, people want to know that they’re voting for somebody that can do the job…and I think having worked in the county clerk’s office for the last four years makes me the most qualified candidate.”
Aaron Ammons: “I believe they should choose me because I’m passionate about democracy. I’m passionate about making sure that anyone who’s an eligible voter has access to a fair, free and accessible election. I want to make sure that the franchise is expanded to students, people in the rural areas, and also people in the urbana areas. Make sure they know how to vote, and where to vote. I want to protect their right to vote. This is the front lines of democracy, and you need someone who is a proven fighter when it comes to protecting our democracy, and that’s me.”