By Kendra Hennis
We are just six days away from the general election on November 3. With misinformation swirling and guidelines constantly changing, I was able to meet up with Douglas County Clerk Judi Pollock to discuss the upcoming election and what voters need to know.
Pollock began by saying that there has been a very high number of early voters in the county clerk’s office. In years past, Douglas County had a maximum number of 1,200 voters in the office. This year, there have been 1,102 voters to date.
Along with this, as of October 23, 1,042 of the 1,600 requested vote-by-mail ballots have already been returned to the Douglas County Courthouse. Pollock noted that first-class postage has been provided by the county for all ballots returned, but that voters can also drop ballots in the drop box outside of the courthouse. There is still time to put in a request if you would like to vote by mail, but applications must be mailed by the county clerk’s office by October 29. Pollock emphasized that while they have had nothing but success with the Tuscola Post Office, if you need the application, it is best that you pick it up from the clerk’s office in the courthouse.
She then said that the ballot box outside of the Douglas County Courthouse has been very helpful for the county. The box was purchased with grant money and currently the courthouse location is the only in the county. The box is under a security camera at all times and emptied every morning by certified election judges.
Pollock then explained the process at the end of each day. At 7 p.m., votes begin being counted at the courthouse. There are three judges that come in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to process the ballot box. After comparing the signature on the ballot to the one in the system, they initial the ballot and put it in the machine. One thing she would like to clarify to voters is that in Illinois, initials put on the ballots by judges are a requirement. Once a ballot is returned, a judge will put their initials in red on the outside of the ballot, which is necessary if a recount would have to take place. Pollock said that write-in elections are usually one of the last to be calculated. If you are writing in a candidate, you must write the name and check the write-in box for it to be counted. The intent of the voter dictates if the write-in is valid. For example, a candidate named Judi could also be spelled as Judy.
On Election Day, the Douglas County Courthouse will also serve as a precinct that anyone in Douglas County can vote in. The entire second floor of the courthouse will operate as the precinct. The courthouse will also handle grace registration on election day. Pollock explained that it would be challenging but possible to prepare for voting of all 17 precincts in the county. The courthouse will be in constant communication with the precincts to ensure that all is going well and to update the list of voters.
The county is also in the works to get individual precincts ready for election day. Their goal in each is to develop a one-way flow of traffic in each precinct. This presents some difficulties in spaces like the Tuscola Community Building, where there are four precincts, but they are working to redirect groups from one another and create the best flow that they can. Pollock said that at polling places face masks will be strongly encouraged, there will be masks and hand sanitizer available at the door, marked floors, a sanitizing crew, many signs, sneeze guards at tables, and lots of PPE for election judges including gloves, N95s, face shields, and wipes.
Things will be a little different on election night at the courthouse. Results will be displayed in the Douglas County Boardroom on a big screen. There will be staff on hand to help with individual precinct results. This will allow for some separation in the courthouse and is safer for those who are present.
Please get out and vote November 3. If you would like more information on candidates, we have a full list with their bio’s in this week’s Tri-County Journal.