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ELECTIONS Cook County Clerk candidate Jan Kowalski McDonald on priorities, apathy
by Felicia Darnell

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After Cook County Clerk David Orr decided not to run after 28 years in office, Jan Kowalski McDonald and Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough have been vying for the post in the Democratic primary.

McDonald appealed a decision by the Cook County Board of Elections to knock her from the primary election ballot. Since a judge did not rule in time for the printing deadline, her name will be printed on the ballot.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: An offensive term the candidate uses to answer one of the questions has been replaced.]

Windy City Times: In our questionnaire, you stated that you would implement sensitivity training for your staff members regarding LGBT issues. How much of a priority would you say training your staff members is moving forward?

Jan Kowalski McDonald: Training? It's key. But there's other priorities that are facing the county clerk's office.

The first one has to be voter's registration. There's a huge problem with voter apathy. We have a small percentage of the poor population that's electing our leaders. That's not acceptable. So what's the solution for that? Voter registration, voter information and that goes out to all the communities. Not just the ones that needs sensitivity. All the big priority has to be registering people to vote and giving information out where to vote. And making sure that all the votes are counted. To the extent that it impacts all the communities.

WCT: What are you thinking about in terms of your priorities?

JKM: We need more federal funding. That's what I'm hoping to get us more federal funding to give more people out there the ability to register people to vote. And that's a big problem with young kids nowadays. They don't want to vote. They think that their vote doesn't matter and it's not going to be counted anyway. So we need to counteract that in order to get people into the polls. People are complaining about Trump Trump Trump, but the real problem is is that the people that voted, elected President Trump. And if you don't like it, the solution obviously is, to vote. Vote for someone else! But you have to vote. That's we the people. We need all the people out there. All of them.

WCT: How would you change the culture around voter apathy?

JKM: This is the Cook County clerk's office—and the suburban Cook County elections. You have to dismantle that. You have to make sure every single vote counts. I was out there getting my signatures for my nominating petition. And I have one guy who actually refused to sign my nominating petition. He told me no. It doesn't matter. Even if I voted it wouldn't matter because it's just one vote. And I'm trying to explain to him, one vote matters. But there's so many people that are, "Don't waste my time."

We need to change the whole culture. And the only way to do that is by transparency. The only way. The more people register to vote, making sure every vote is counted too. And right now we don't have that. But then part of the problem is the polling places. We have to move around our precinct judges. We have to move that. I don't know about your polling place but my polling place we have the same little old lady who's sitting there all these years. We need to move the people. With fresh faces and fresh eyes.

We need the sheriffs out there to protect the places and the people going in. And we also need the state's attorney that's going to be willing to back people up. It's so fundamental. It's not really an LGBT issue. It's more of just a general county wide issue. We want our ballots to count. Every single one. My vote matters.

WCT: Historically and statistically, marginalized groups, [like] LGBTs, are subjected to voting laws that can make it harder for their vote to actually matter. I'm curious as to your opinion about that.

JKM: It was such a good point. I know it's the same thing. Let's look at our t**ny [NOTE: candidate's word] community. I have a client who's a t**ny [NOTE: candidate's word], and he [NOTE: candidate is apparently misgendering of client as he, even though she is speaking of a trans person who identifies as a woman] tells me this when you go the polling place, he looks like a woman and he's showing his ID and they're looking at him kind of strange. Discrimination is very possible and it's really out there. We need people [who are] color-blind out there and gender-blind. That's what I call neutral.

WCT: If you have to change that culture and get that kind of transparency that on your own, how do you plan on maneuvering that?

JKM: There's no "We the people" if only 20 percent of the people are voting. And the problem is David Orr has been in office for 28 years, seven terms in Illinois. He's complacent. There's no sensitivity training going on for the little old lady that's been there for 28 years. That's why we need new people and new faces. We need to change things around. But that's the big thing: get everybody to vote, amake sure that the vote counts.

WCT: Looking at David Orr and his tenure and whoever will be coming in after him, how will you be different or maybe even the same—particularly in terms of your priorities?

JKM: I will definitely be different. We need to start trimming the budget. Too many people doing who knows what down the road. The budget is just bloated. People are sick and tired of paying taxes. Just sick and tired. I know that elections cost money obviously. But there has to be a way to trim it. There has to be. I don't know if it's more seasonal employees. More internet registration. Funding voter registration electronically. I mean do we really need that many employees going through the voter's registration? I should show you voter's registration. We need to have other groups to go out there and register people to vote that the county is not paying.

WCT: How will that affect voter's lives in the long run?

JKM: The big thing is, I'm going to make sure that their vote gets counted. Even if you don't like the politicians, at least you can vote them out.

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