March 01, 2012

State elections board director to speak on campus

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- As Illinois’ March 20 primary nears, Rupert T. Borgsmiller, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, will be at Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week to discuss efforts to keep the state’s election process clean.

Borgsmiller will present “The Evolution of Elections since Creation of the State Board of Elections,” during a luncheon lecture at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 6, in Student Center Ballroom B.  A native of Murphysboro, Borgsmiller did post-graduate study in SIU Carbondale’s Master of Public Administration program.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is sponsoring the lecture. 

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the session for Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director of the Illinois Board of Elections. For more information, contact Matt Baughman, associate director at 618/453-4009 or 618/201-0082.

The luncheon and lecture are free and open to the public, but advance registration is required for meal considerations and seating is limited. To register, contact Carol Greenlee, Institute project coordinator, at 618/453-4078 or by email at by Monday, March 5.  Open seating will be available for those who wish to only listen to the speech and not be included in the meal.  Endowment funds from the John White Lecture Series are covering luncheon costs.

The discussion will also be available via live stream for free on the Institute’s website,

“Protecting the integrity of Illinois elections is an important job, especially given this state’s rich history of fraudulent election practices,” said David Yepsen, Institute director.  “Rupert Borgsmiller is an SIU alum who is in charge of trying to keep them clean … and we’re excited to have him back on campus to talk about those efforts.

“We’re looking forward to hearing about what’s being done to protect the integrity of the vote in Illinois and his ideas for what more needs to be done,” Yepsen said.

The ballot for this year’s primary not only includes the Republican presidential primary, but nominating contests for congressional races, the Illinois House and Senate, county offices throughout the state, and numerous referendum initiatives.

Borgsmiller, a career employee with the Illinois State Board of Elections, said he has always been interested in politics. Borgsmiller has been executive director since January 2011; prior to that he was assistant executive director for two-and-one-half years.  He began working with the agency’s campaign disclosure division in 1976 and held several positions within the division before becoming its director in 1998.

The state elections board “allowed me to observe all aspects of the political process and how it works in Illinois and its evolution over the years,” he said.

The state elections board wants to ensure fair elections, and tests all the voting systems approved for use in Illinois, he said.  There is no current movement toward online voter registration in the state.

“When I started, jurisdictions were voting on paper and using the punch card voting device and some lever machines.  There will always be a debate regarding the security of the present voting systems versus the old days.  The elections are now high-tech.

“I think that with the advent of the statewide voting database, the voting rolls are as clean as they have ever been in Illinois,” Borgsmiller said.  “I am sure that there are problems but many steps have been take to ensure that rolls are as clean as possible.”

As executive director of the state elections board, Borgsmiller oversees an agency that has 71 staff members and an annual budget of more than $13 million.  The state elections board also coordinates its efforts with 110 independent election authorities that conduct all elections throughout the state.  The independent election authorities conduct the elections and then report the results to the state elections board, which certifies the results.

Borgsmiller also said that while many people question the integrity of elected public officials, he believes a “few bad apples have created a misconception of public officials as a whole.”  He said he has always operated with the belief that he is with the government but is there to help people.

Borgsmiller earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Eastern Illinois University in 1974.

For more information on the program, contact the Institute at 618/453-4009 or visit