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Election 2018 candidate: Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White speaks to a group of students Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, during an anti-bullying campaign in Joliet, Ill.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White speaks to a group of students Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, during an anti-bullying campaign in Joliet, Ill.

Shaw Media sent questionnaires to statewide and Congressional candidates throughout the area ahead of the fall election.

Those questionnaires from each candidate who responded, as well as video of candidate interviews with our Editorial Board, are featured on our Election Central website to help readers make informed decisions when they cast their votes.

Name: Jesse White

Age: 84

Town of residence: Chicago

Office sought: Illinois Secretary of State

Party: Democrat



• Why are you the best candidate in this race?

My record as secretary of state and the accomplishments we have achieved while in office.Wait times in Driver Services facilities are shorter than ever before. The culture of the office, once beset by scandal and corruption, has been overhauled and changed to one that vigorously pursues and roots out any form of wrongdoing or unethical behavior. The roads of Illinois are among the safest in the nation. Since we established our state's nationally recognized Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, teen driving deaths in Illinois have dropped by more than 50 percent. Our innovative BAIID program was one of the first of its kind in the nation, and drunk driving deaths have been cut in half during my tenure. National studies highlight Illinois as a national leader in traffic safety as a result. I am proud of these accomplishments as well as many others that my administration has achieved.

In addition, I’d like to highlight the unique experiences I have developed over the years working with young people through the Jesse White Tumbling Team, which I founded in 1959, and as a former school teacher and administrator in Chicago Public Schools for 33 years. I have been able to use these experiences in a way to effectively communicate with teens and to be able to show them that my concern for their well-being is genuine. I believe this helped play a role in our heralded success in saving teen lives through our state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. I am always looking for ways that I can help young people find the right path to success so they too will someday be able to make a positive impact on society. This is my goal each and every day of my life.

• Illinois has made several changes to driver's licensing to comply with the federal REAL ID law. How can the licensing process for Illinois drivers be improved?

We have upgraded the issuance process and security features to the Illinois driver’s license/ID (DL/ID) card design to better protect citizens from fraud and identity theft. We are implementing the federally mandated REAL ID program and will be fully REAL ID compliant early next year. As a result, this extends the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deadline for REAL ID to October 1, 2020. This means our residents can use their current DL/IDs as primary forms of identification to board commercial domestic flights for the next two years. Beginning early next year, we will offer residents a choice between a REAL ID-compliant DL/ID card and a standard DL/ID card. If a person flies or has a need to visit military bases or restricted federal facilities, he or she might want to apply for a REAL ID-compliant DL/ID. But if a person does not fly and does not visit military bases or restricted federal facilities, he or she may opt for the standard DL/ID. The federal government requires additional documentation to verify identity, proof of social security number and residency for those applying for a REAL ID-compliant DL/ID.

In addition to the significant advancements to the issuance process and DL/ID card design security features, my office continues to explore the use of technology to streamline services and allow our residents to conduct transactions online from the comfort of their home. Safe Driver Renewal remains a popular feature for those who wish to renew their DL/ID without visiting a Driver Services facility. Wait times at facilities are at an all-time low. And internet transactions with my office have increased by approximately 500 percent over the last 10 years.

• Do you believe the Secretary of State police are necessary?

Yes. Secretary of State Police fulfill an important role that is not covered by already over-burdened state and local police agencies. The Secretary of State Police is responsible for the enforcement of the motor vehicle theft statutes and the regulation of the automotive industry, covering more than 15,000 licensees including new and used dealers, used part dealers, repairers and rebuilders. The Secretary of State Police oversee the Capitol Police force that provides security for the more than 20 buildings that comprise the capitol complex in Springfield. In addition, the Secretary of State Police also houses the Hazardous Devices Unit (HDU), a collection of highly trained technicians who respond to and render safe various bomb threats when called upon by law enforcement agencies and the public throughout the state.

• Some states, such as Pennsylvania, have abandoned the practice of selling annual license plate renewal stickers. Should Illinois end this practice as well? Why or why not?

One advantage to license plate stickers is they give law enforcement a quick and easy visual to determine if a license plate is expired. The system in Pennsylvania requires law enforcement to look up the license plate on their in-car computer and then verify electronically whether it is expired or not. This is not easy to do while driving nor is it recommended.

I supported legislation that became law this session that will allow motorists to register their license plates every two years instead of annually. I continue to look at ways to improve upon and streamline the registration process for vehicles.

• Is there anything that should be done to increase the public's access to records maintained by the Secretary of State? What?

My office has made concerted efforts to improve upon and make easier the public’s access to records maintained by the Secretary of State. I am a strong believer in being open with both the media and with the public and providing access to records where the laws permit. My Index Department maintains a comprehensive Lobbyist Registration database. The public can review these documents with a click of a button on their computer. The same is true with businesses that are registered in Illinois. My Business Services Department has completely automated these databases and they are easily searchable. In fact, the Better Business Bureau uses our website constantly to monitor the status of Illinois corporations and LLC’s. Regarding driver records, there is a national security law in place – the Driver Privacy Protection Act – that regulates and governs the privacy and disclosure of personal information gathered by state departments of motor vehicles.

• Should marijuana be legalized for recreational use in Illinois? If so, how and why? If not, why not?

No. I am opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana because of the negative impact this would have on road safety. Illinois has become a national leader in road safety and we have seen deaths on our roadways decrease considerably. Since we established our state’s nationally recognized Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program, teen driving deaths in Illinois have dropped by more than 50 percent. Drunk driving deaths have been cut in half during my tenure. We need to continue working to make our roads even safer and legalization would have a detrimental effect on this goal.

• What changes or reforms, if any, do you support in Illinois DUI laws?

I have worked to help make the roads of Illinois as safe as possible. While we have had successes in this regard – Illinois is considered a national leader in traffic safety – I believe we can still make improvements. We implemented one of the most comprehensive Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) programs in the nation and as a result, drunk driving fatalities have been cut in half.

Nevertheless, I believe we can and should do more to combat drunk driving. One area I will focus on is statutory summary suspensions. I want to change the law to make it more difficult for judges to rescind statutory summary suspensions. I am proposing legislation that would require judges to indicate the reason they are rescinding a statutory summary suspension. This would bring more accountability in dealing with DUI penalties.

• How can the customer experience at the Secretary of State's offices be improved?

We have improved customer service through streamlined operations, innovative use of technology and expanding online transactions. As a result, wait times are shorter than ever at facilities as more customers utilize technology-based transactions that the office has developed to better serve the public. In 2017, internet transactions with the office accounted for nearly $270 million, an increase of approximately 500 percent in ten years. We have also upgraded the issuance process and security features to the driver’s license/ID card (DL/ID) design to better protect citizens from fraud and identity theft. We are implementing the federally-mandated REAL ID program to improve homeland security.

We continue looking for new ways to enhance customer service, and while we have accomplished much in this area, I am committed to innovative thinking and the adoption of new technologies to upgrade customer experiences.

• By law, the Secretary of State administers the state library. How much support can and should the state library provide to local libraries in our communities?

A library is the cornerstone of a community. It is a place where people can gather to read, conduct research, learn, work on a resume, or just a safe place to go for a child that is waiting for a working parent to come home.

I am proud of the support the state library has provided to local libraries in communities throughout Illinois. During the long budget impasse, I fought on behalf of local libraries to continue receiving the funding they need to carry out their important mission. I will do everything within my power to ensure local libraries continue to receive support from the state library.

My opponent has said publicly that he wants to cut funding to libraries. I am 100 percent opposed to this idea.

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