Is Voter Fraud A Problem In Southernmost Illinois?

Many voters — especially those who vote Republican — are worried about the possibility of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. In Illinois, only 40 cases of voter fraud have been documented since 2000, which makes it extremely unlikely that voter fraud could turn the tide of an election. Bipartisan committees have long since acknowledged that widespread voter fraud in American elections simply does not exist. Trump’s own FBI director contradicted the president’s voter fraud scare tactics. 

But that hasn’t stopped the president from continuing to sow doubt about the authenticity of an election that he seems poised to lose by a landslide.

Some residents wonder if allegations of voter fraud are more or less likely because of the impending financial crisis due to coronavirus, which resulted in many people losing their jobs — and health insurance. Credit card debt relief attorney Ronald Samuel said, “People think that the next president will make or break this economy, and they’re dead set on voting one way or the other. Many of my clients worry that fraud is a big problem in 2020, but our associates know that widespread fraud is a myth and our problems won’t really go away no matter who’s in office.”

Voter fraud does exist, however — and in the highest of places. A widowed election judge who lived in Southernmost Illinois filled out a ballot for her deceased husband in 2016, voting for Trump. She was charged with voter fraud.

Cases like that have led to an increase in the number of inquiries about what happens if someone casts an early ballot and then dies. Some states allow the ballot to be counted while others do not accept its authenticity. Many advocates of allowing these ballots to be counted contend that the deceased were American citizens at the time of their death with the ability to vote because voting was already open — so why shouldn’t their votes be counted?

Others argue that the point is moot either way. Election officials have no way of knowing that a person who already cast a ballot has since died, making it very unlikely that these ballots are actually tossed. Why argue about something that no one can change?

But these “dead voter” allegations help fear mongers sow more doubt into an election. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said, “The ‘dead voters’ is used as a false narrative, a pretext for changes in some states to how they register voters or count ballots when the data shows otherwise.”

And it’s true that dead voters are often mentioned whenever someone alleges voter fraud. How often do we hear Trump say that millions of deceased individuals managed to cast ballots for Hillary in 2016? 

Southern Illinois District of Illinois U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft acknowledged the fact that even though voter fraud may not be widespread, people do have the right to know where and when it happens. 

Weinhoeft said, “Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination and to have that vote counted without it being stolen because of fraud. The Department of Justice will always act appropriately to protect the integrity of the election process.”

What Are The Longest Trails To Hike In Southernmost Illinois?

The weather is about to take a turn for the worst — freezing temperatures, wind, rain, sleet, snow, you know the drill — which means this next month marks your last chance to get outside to enjoy everything Mother Nature has to offer. That’s not to say you can’t venture into the woods during winter, but not everyone is built to endure the cold. Here are the best trails to explore before autumn chill really sets into your bones.

Trail 049 is a loop that extends for over ten miles. That’s a full day for most of us. Begin your hike in early morning at the East Trigg Trailhead. You’ll want to mark Millstone Lake on your map, because that’s destination number one. From there you’ll find the target Trail 049. Turn toward Jackson Falls. From there, you have a number of options — But looping back to the River to River Trail will take you home.

Want to go farther? No problem. The River to River Trail is actually 160 miles out-and-back. Research the American Discovery Trail if you want to explore even beyond. This trail marks a great opportunity to walk through the Shawnee National Forest, which is Southernmost Illinois’s claim to fame. It passes through a number of wildlife sanctuaries and state parks, including Crab Orchard. Be careful, because many segments of the trail cut through private property. To avoid trouble with the locals, stay on trail. A great thru-hiking opportunity for newbies, too.

Ever biked or walked along the popular Tunnel Hill State Trail, a rails-to-trail creation? Because it was built with trains in mind, the elevation change is minor. Walking, you’ll barely notice. Biking could be harder. The trail extends about 50 miles with a terminus in Harrisburg and the other in Karnak. Want more information? Check out the trail headquarters in Vienna City Park.

Is Southernmost Illinois Ready For Another Inland Hurricane?

Many residents of Southernmost Illinois remember a cataclysmic, historic act of Mother Nature that most people have never even heard about: the May 2009 “inland hurricane.” While a storm so large has failed to find its footing in the region ever since, scientists warn that man-made climate change could create strange weather patterns, or make those we’ve already experience all the more likely in the future. Are we ready for another one?

These storms aren’t called hurricanes when they don’t come in from the ocean. They are called Derechos. The 2009 Derecho was described as  mesoscale convective vortex, or MCV. It slammed into Kansas, Missouri, and southwestern Illinois. Some have even described the 2009 storm as a Super Derecho because of its size and scope. The storm brought reports of 39 tornadoes. Some hail brought by the storm was baseball-sized!

Damage in Carbondale reached an estimated three million dollars, and up to 34 buildings at Southern Illinois University were completely demolished by the storm. Damage to the university was estimated at over five million dollars. Communication was interrupted for weeks. Tens of thousands were left without power.

Even in northern Illinois, wind gusts reached a sustained 92 mph only 100 miles away from Chicago, putting one of the greatest cities in the U.S. in danger. Much of the damage caused by the storm blocked roads to Chicago.

Norman, Oklahoma Science Support Chief of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center Patrick March said, “It ramped up pretty quick…I don’t think anybody expected widespread winds approaching 100, 110 mph.”

MidAmerican Spokesperson Tina Hoffman said, “It’s a lot of tree damage. Very high winds. It will be a significant effort to get through it all and get everybody back on. It was a big front that went all the way through the state.”

Marshall County Homeland Security Coordinator Kim Elder has seen the damage that even smaller storms can do, one of which struck earlier this year. She said, “We had quite a few people trapped in buildings and cars. We’re in life-saving mode right now.”

The danger to life is serious. But most people only have to worry about damage to their property, which is difficult to avoid. Elder urged residents of vulnerable areas in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, etc., to purchase homeowners insurance with a property damage clause to maintain financial security when the worst happens, and speak to a property damage lawyer if insurance adjusters give them a hard time.

In many ways, a Derecho can become even more impactful than a hurricane — because it’s far more likely to stand still or hover. This can cause far more sustained impacts and increased damage potential. The winds of such a storm can expand for hundreds of miles.

Northern Illinois University Meteorology Professor Victor Gensini said, “They are basically self-sustaining amoebas of thunderstorms. Once they get going like they did across Iowa [and Southernmost Illinois], it’s really hard to stop these suckers.”

Are Southern Illinois Residents Prepared For The Next Few Months?

History shows that residents of Southernmost Illinois have never quite been through the kind of tumultuous times that the next few months are likely to be. What does that mean? Think about the strange confluence of historic events that are currently unfolding in the United States: a pandemic (the fatality count of which could double by the new year), a president who openly states he might not accept the results of the election, a nation more divided than ever before, and a faltering economy.

It seems like a recipe for disaster.

That means we all must prepare for what will come in the next few months. Life will go on no matter what, but not for everyone. Coronavirus has assured us of that. What can you do to prepare? Take a moment to contact an estate planning attorney or check out an estate planning guide. If you are not sure what will happen when you pass away, then these are the most prudent next steps.

The most important step in estate planning is to ensure you have a living will and trust — and that you have assigned a trust friend or family member to execute that will should the worst befall you. This will usually guarantee that the fate of your assets goes according to your plan and not someone else’s. Should you fail to write up a signed and notarized will, then probate court could allocate your assets to beneficiaries you did not necessarily name. In order to keep control, you need to do this as soon as possible.

Another important task is to name those beneficiaries. You might want to set aside a trust or specific funds for a family member to use only under certain conditions. What kind of conditions? Maybe once they reach the age of eighteen, go to college, get married (or even divorced if you’re not a fan of the spouse), etc. You have the power to see that your money goes where you want it to go.

Estate planning can also help you avoid certain kinds of taxes. Smaller estates will avoid taxes on the estate itself, while larger ones might owe Uncle Sam a pretty penny. If you own a business, you might be able to avoid taxes by chatting with a lawyer before making any firm decisions about what will happen to that business when you pass away.

You will also want to name a healthcare proxy to make decisions on your behalf if you find yourself incapacitated physically and mentally. A separate (or the same) trusted individual should be named to take care of financial decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. You can direct these persons to take only the steps specified under certain conditions — so, while the the responsibility might still be weighty, the hope is that these individuals are really only there to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. What are you waiting for?

Coronavirus In Southernmost Illinois: Are We Recovering?

Only one month ago, wineries were discuss the path to reopening amidst the dangerous coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the nation and the world in a fist of uncertainty. Now, everything is regressing. Coronavirus cases are on the rise in cities all over the country, and local and state governments are considering a second round of government restrictions as other preventative measures continue to fail; namely, masks.

Counties in Southernmost Illinois have been recently unaffected by coronavirus. There have been relatively few infections compared to the rest of the country, and only a few dozen deaths. But we know that could change as the virus spreads out of control in larger cities. 

Population density is the largest factor in determining how far the virus will spread and how fast, and thankfully the people who reside in Southernmost Illinois are very spread out. Do you think you might have the virus? Some people have been mistaking the symptoms of coronavirus for seasonal allergies, which might help explain why the virus is making such an unexpected resurgence in some areas of the country. Memorial Day probably had an even larger impact.

Regardless of whether or not you feel sick, Illinois authorities ask that you stay inside when possible regardless of symptoms. Most people don’t display any at all, but they can still spread the virus to others. 

Please disregard misinformation from the president, who continues to downplay the severity of COVID-19.

Wear a mask when you must venture outside for groceries and other necessities. Stand at least six feet away from others when exercising, and try to stay out of the path of runners and bikers. It’s possible they could transmit the virus farther than six feet.

This site focuses on the history of our wonderful geographical region, but that history wouldn’t exist without you, the people. Please stay safe. 

Laws About Personal Injury

Have you ever watched a loved one get caught in a serious accident? These situations are extremely stressful. If the accident was your loved one’s fault, then they will wonder about a potentially looming personal injury lawsuit for years. If it was someone else’s fault, your loved one will have to make the call: to sue or not to sue. But not every accident was created equally, and personal injury law draws the line between what compensation covers and what it does not. This is what you should know.

Usually, suing a person or organization because they were responsible for an injury you sustained requires proof of negligence. In other words, it was not an “accident” in the truest sense of the word; instead, it was a preventable act of negligence. Someone caused your injury because they were not handling a certain situation with the expected safety standards.

One particularly tricky law says that a person who was injured by another person’s negligence can sue for personal injury if and only if that person’s “contributory negligence” was more than the defendant’s. In other words, the person being sued was the biggest cause of the accident — even if the person making the case was negligent as well. 

Other laws outline the differences between the general public and those in a certain profession (such as doctors or teachers). These professionals are held to a higher standard of conduct than your average Joe, meaning you can sue them for negligence related to their field of work more easily.

There is also a difference between civil negligence and criminal negligence. The former means that a defendant’s negligence may have led to a catastrophic accident but that the defendant broke no laws in the process. The latter means that a defendant’s negligence was both criminal and civil. In such cases the plaintiff is more likely to win a civil case when the defendant has already been charged and convicted with a crime related to the accident.

Personal injury law is also guided by a statute of limitations. These statutes are mostly dependent on the type of accident, whether negligence was criminal or civil in nature, and the region where the accident occurred. For example, a true “personal” injury in a state like Pennsylvania is bound by a two-year statute of limitation. Libel is technically a personal injury as well, but is bound by a less strict one-year statute of limitation. Longer statutes exist for rent collection and broken contracts. 21 years for the former and 20 years for the latter!

There are other aspects of personal injury law to consider — such as when the statute of limitations kicks in. For more detailed information related to personal injury law in your state, request the services of a personal injury lawyer.

The History Of Public Transportation In Southernmost Illinois

Public transportation has come a long way during the last decade. Unfortunately, the systems in place in the U.S. at large still lag far behind those of other countries. Officials in Southernmost Illinois strive to maintain and improve existing public transportation and the infrastructure needed to make it function efficiently. Tax dollars have been instrumental in making this work — both in the past and right now.

For most of the history of Illinois, train travel has been far and wide the most important method of public transportation. This option was implemented during the industrial revolution, but became less important throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s. Eventually, northern cities adopted vehicular or metro transportation. Trains have continued to fall further behind with each passing year.

Now, rideshare options such as Uber and Lyft have cut into revenue generated by public options, putting those systems at risk in the future.

Although southern communities’ economies have struggled to keep up with those in the north, public transportation has continued to thrive in the south. This is because the aforementioned rideshare options are less pragmatic in more rural areas with older populations. Some college communities still cater toward rideshare companies more than public transportation, even when it is cheaply available.

The state of Illinois is currently making significant investments in updating bussing networks in the state, especially in southern communities. Other technologies could be implemented in the near-future as well. One of these is the almost magical hyperloop, which can shoot pods through vacuum-sealed tubes at extremely high speeds, cutting travel times to a fraction of what they once were.

Looking for a ride in or around your neighborhood? There are several public transportation options currently available in Southernmost Illinois. To learn about common routes and schedules or to find a representative to help plan a trip in the area, click any of the links below:

Jackson County Mass Transit. Available to residents of Jackson County.

Rides Mass Transit. Federal funded public option available to local residential areas, but provides scheduled rides to neighboring countries upon request.

Shawnee Mass Transit. Serving on-call transportation to Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union counties.

Saluki Express Mass Transit. Provides students and faculty with reliable transportation throughout the academic year in the Carbondale community.

Bus accidents in southernmost Illinois occur infrequently due to the experienced drivers who are trained in defensive driving techniques before receiving their state-funded certification.

NOTE: Please be advised that some of these transportation options might be closed down because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

Did You Know That Alcohol Consumption On Trains Was Illegal In Illinois?

Don’t worry! While drinking on trains in the state of Illinois has historically been considered illegal and could get you a night or two in jail, the law has finally been repealed by lawmakers who called it “archaic.” It specifically targets traffic on the “L,” but technically applies to anyone caught drinking in the state. The old law was called the Railroad Intoxicating Liquor Act of 1911. Now, you can enjoy that frosty beverage on your way home from work — or anywhere else.

One of the senators who voted to repeal the old law was none other than Laura Ellman (D-Naperville).

If you’re from Chicago, you probably already know that most people were ignorant of the old law and openly ignored it. Thankfully, no one has enforced the law for about a century. Senate Bill 2961 has gone through the Senate Transportation Committee and been wiped from the books once and for all.

Ellman said, “This law hasn’t been forced since the 1920s, during prohibition in this country. Just because a law isn’t generally enforced, doesn’t mean that it can’t be. Today, many trains include alcoholic beverages on their menus. It’s time to strike this archaic and arbitrary law off the books in the state of Illinois.”

This is good news in a state struggling with such controversial subjects all the time. President Donald Trump recently commuted the sentence of former Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and eventually convicted for trying to “sell” the senate seat once occupied by President Barack Obama. That was news none of us wanted to hear! Especially since Blagojevich has shown zero remorse for his crimes.

The whole thing was ironic because he had a stack of thousands of clemency requests that he completely ignored. The next governor (who has also gone on to bigger and better things) had to deal with them when he occupied the office.

Also in the news are the current battles to implement new casino-related legislation so we can increase the number of these businesses operating in southernmost Illinois. Currently, there is a strict cap on the number that can operate in the state at any one time.

At least six new licence applications have been put forth since the new laws were announced. The industry could lead to huge revenue increases, which would be especially beneficial for towns in the south whose economies are struggling even in the supposedly strong economy.

What Is The Illinois State Whistleblower Act?

Whistleblowers are getting a lot of attention these days — even in the mostly small towns of Southernmost Illinois. Because the entire purpose of a whistleblower is shedding light on corrupt of unlawful activity from the lowest levels of government to the highest, it’s not so surprising that they’re likely to feel some pressure when divulging information that the “powers that be” would rather keep secret. 

That’s exactly why President Donald J. Trump has characterized the man or woman who blew the whistle on his unlawful withholding of Ukraine aid as a traitor. He went on to tweet: “why aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about… the Whistleblower and also the person who gave all of the false information to him.”

He likened the whistleblower to a spy. Previous whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have been put in harm’s way because of the nature of information released. Whistleblower laws exist to protect these individuals when they have important, valid information to disclose. They also govern how these individuals are allowed to disclose the secrets they have.

The Illinois State Whistleblower Act prevents employers from retaliating against employees when they divulge certain kinds of information to a government official or agency. This provision includes law enforcement agencies. 

What kind of information is considered relevant when determining a whistleblower’s protections? Anything that might be considered a violation of state or federally mandated laws or regulations. It doesn’t necessarily make a difference if the rule or regulation ignored was a violation of the law. As long as a governing agency says you shouldn’t do it, you’re not allowed to do it. And people have the right to go to a higher power to make sure you’re following those rules the way you should as an employer.

But the employee must have actual reason to have held concerns about employer conduct. If an employee can’t provide adequate proof that he or she did, then the Illinois State Whistleblower Act protections might not hold up in a court of law. 

Employees who wish to employ whistleblower protections should therefore seek the advice of qualified attorneys who practice whistleblower law before making a final decision about coming forward with potentially controversial information. Doing the right thing is important — but making sure that doing the right thing doesn’t backfire makes sense too.

Broken laws or regulations open an employer up to civil suit by the employee, especially if the employee was fired for the disclosure. Unlawful termination opens the employer up to damages including attorneys’ fees, back pay, etc. The Illinois State Whistleblower Act does not cover punitive damages. Even though employers may have done something wrong, they are not vulnerable to additional court-mandated punishments in civil court.

Volunteer Opportunities In Southernmost Illinois: New Volunteers Needed!

Volunteering to serve those in need can be a satisfying, enriching, and rewarding experience for those who take the time to try it out. But there can actually be health benefits too. Those who volunteer their time report feeling less stress and anxiety. In addition, volunteering can boost self-confidence, help battle depression, and even provide a deep sense of understanding for those less fortunate than ourselves. And Southernmost Illinois needs more volunteers.

Especially Hospice of Southern Illinois.

Not everyone jumps at the opportunity, of course. Donna Cunetto says, “They’re a little afraid of it (because of that perception). It’s not doom and gloom. It’s very fulfilling.”

Rita Spiller, a volunteer services supervisor, said, “We are always in need of volunteers. We never have too many. Volunteers are the only way we provide services for our patients. Volunteers are very, very important at Hospice of Southern Illinois.”

And it’s not just about working with patients. There are plenty of things volunteers can help out with, including clerical duties like data entry, education, fundraising campaigns, spiritual support, patient support, and bereavement services. The organization is committed to finding the right fit for anyone who can provide a chunk of their time — so long as they’re willing to give it.

Companion care simply means offering support in the form of a patient visit. Not everyone has a big family for support, and some have a lot of free time. You might be asked to read to a particular patient or play games or even just listen to their stories — in addition to telling a few of your own.

Cunetto says, “There’s so many different things people can volunteer to do.”

Hospice of Southern Illinois works with around 100 patients at a time throughout 17 counties. How many volunteers are there for those 100 patients? Only about 40. Saline and Jackson counties require the most support right now according to Cunetto. “We try to match volunteers and patients according to the area,” she said. “We try to stay within 15 miles of the volunteer’s home.”

Volunteering for Hospice care might not be as big of a time commitment as you think, either: First, you’ll need to enroll in and complete an 8-hour training course. But after that, all you need to do is volunteer for another 8 hours of service annually. That’s just a day of work! Currently, Hospice offers training courses every other month out of its office in Marion.

Spiller said, “It’s a very rewarding opportunity. Most people would think the patient is really receiving gifts from the volunteer, but we come away getting more than the patient. It’s a very special opportunity we have.”
To request additional information on Hospice opportunities near you, call 618-997-3030 or email respiller@hospice.org or dcunetto@hospice.org.