By Kendra Hennis
Election season is right around the corner. The upcoming general election will be held on November 3, 2020 and has been deemed a holiday in the State of Illinois. With ever-changing coronavirus guidelines and mail-in voting at a record number, we’re here to clear up some of the confusion around the voting process in Douglas County.
There are 11,750 registered voters in Douglas County. As of September 10, 1,104 residents have requested to vote by mail. In the past the record number of mail-in voters for a general election was 400.
Douglas County residents who are registered to vote should have received a vote by mail application from the Secretary of State’s office. The vote by mail process looks a little different this year. After a voter confirms that they would like to vote by mail, they will receive a filled out certification envelope with their ballot starting September 24. Each envelope will contain instructions for everything voters need to complete. Voters will then vote and sign the ballot, which they will place in the certification envelope and then the return envelope. There is no marking of any kind on the envelope that could tell someone your political party or who you voted for.
From there, the ballot can be sent to the Douglas County Clerk’s PO box at the post office. Ballots can also be dropped inside of the ballot drop box at the Douglas County Courthouse. The ballot drop box is set to be installed on October 7. The box will be located outside of the east front door of the building. The drop box can be accessed 24/7 and will be video surveillanced at all times.
Once received, ballots are checked that the posting number on the envelope and application match. The ballots are then brought to the secure location inside of the ballot drop box until the judges can determine if a ballot is deemed usable. For a ballot to be counted, a panel of three judges must evaluate the signature on the ballot and agree that it matches the records in the court system from the last time they voted. If this is someone’s first time voting, the signature will need to match that on their voter registration card. Vote-by-mail ballots will begin to be counted at 7:01 p.m. on November 3.
The last day voters can mail their ballot to be counted is November 3. The last day that vote-by-mail ballots will be counted is November 17. If you would like to check that your ballot has been received, you can call the County Clerk’s office and will check for you.
On voting by mail, Douglas County Clerk Judi Pollock said, “If you wanna vote by mail, that is great and we will guide you. However, if you would like to do that, I urge you to vote your ballot when you get them and return them as quickly as you can. We have a great working relationship with our post office and have never had any issues with getting mail in time. But, this is a way different situation and there are going to be a lot of ballots in the mail. So, don’t delay in returning it and get yourself in a situation where it is not going to get to us in time.”
Early voting begins at the Douglas County Courthouse on September 24. The Courthouse is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They have also extended their hours from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, October 24 and 31.
In the past Douglas County usually had 1,200 early voters. They are expecting a much higher number this year.
The early voting process begins with a security check at the front door. Note: facemasks are encouraged. Voters then go up to the second floor to the County Clerk’s office to vote. A photo ID is not required but it is helpful if you have your voter registration card. If you are registered, your application will print and you will get the option to vote on paper or a touch screen. Booths will be expanded into the hallway to allow voters to social distance. Once you have completed voting, you will come back into the office and place your ballot into the box and get the coveted ‘I voted’ sticker.
Voters still absolutely have the option to vote in person at their regular precinct. Polling places will be prepared with hand sanitizer and gloves to protect judges and voters who would like to vote in person. The County Clerk’s office is working preparing election judges for the day. They also hope that they can continue their partnership with Tuscola schools for student election judges. To ensure there is no double-voting, on the day of the election, election judges will receive a complete list of voters and how they voted.
You could also vote in the courthouse on election day. If you initially requested to vote by mail and decide to vote in person, just bring your mailed voter application to be surrendered. You may then vote at your designated polling place.
Curbside voting is also an option. If you are interested, please contact the County Clerk or polling place to notify them that you need assistance. Two judges will then be sent to your vehicle to go through the proper procedures and help you vote.
Each polling place has a list of write-in candidates available. This list will not be posted. If you would like to see it, ask the election judges and they will provide a copy for you.
If you are voting by mail you will not recieve a list of write-in candidates. If you are interested in this list, please call the County Clerk’s office and it will be provided.
The election will be here before we know it, and it is important to be prepared. Make sure to check your voter registration to make sure that you are correctly registered to vote. Also, learn more about candidates running. Keep an eye out for some feature stories on local election candidates coming soon in The Journal.