By Colleen Lehmann,
Douglas County Public Health Liaison
The March 17, 2020 primary election process taught Douglas County Clerk & Recorder Judi Pollock a thing or two, coming on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic changing life in Illinois and the world. With the virus still very much in play as the Nov. 3, 2020 general election approaches, Pollock and staff are following Ill. Dept. of Public Health polling place guidelines in making sure Douglas County registered voters (11,779 as of Sept. 21) have safe options for casting their ballots.
Sanitation kits — which include masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and sanitation wipes — have been purchased for all 17 precincts. Protective plastic guards, 30 inches wide and 36 inches high, will be on election judge tables, and signage at each polling place will let voters know masks are requested for entry into the facility. Directional signage will instruct voters on where to enter and exit the buildings, and while a single touch screen will be available at each site as required by law, use of paper ballots will be encouraged. Pens to mark ballots will be sanitized between each use.
Don’t want to risk crowds by voting in person at your polling place on Election Day? There are several options to accommodate that preference. Early voting in Douglas County started Sept. 24, with the county clerk’s office open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pollock said only one person at a time will be allowed in the clerk’s office to have their ballot printed, and the ballot casting will likely be done in the hallway. Masks are required to enter the courthouse, with the county clerk’s office located on the second floor.
Voting by mail is another possibility, and Pollock notes her office has already fielded over 1,000 more such requests than is typical at this point in the election cycle. She urges voters using this option to return their ballots as soon as possible, whether by U.S. mail or putting them in a ballot drop box located outside the courthouse entrance. The drop box will be checked daily and is under security surveillance 24 hours a day.
The increased financial burden related to these protective measures is being offset by several grants, according to Pollock. Douglas County received a $33,000 federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) grant for election expenses, as well as a $10,000 state grant to be used for postage costs. Anheuser Busch is providing additional hand sanitizer for polling places, including Douglas County, and IEMA (Illinois Emergency Management Agency) has contributed masks for any voters needing them at county polling sites.
For additional information regarding the Nov. 3, 2020 general election, go online to www.douglascountyil.com and click on the Clerk & Recorder tab on the left-hand side, then click Election Information.