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Early Voting Begins In Illinois

A sign identifies the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana as a polling place for early voting.

URBANA — Early voting starts Thursday, September 24, in Illinois. Voters who wish to cast their ballots early for the November 3 election may do so at their local election office.

In Champaign County, voters can cast their ballots early at the Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 E. Washington St. in Urbana, but not at the county clerk’s office in the building, where election operations are located. Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons says they’re using the building’s gymnasium instead, as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.

“There just wasn’t any room at all to do social distancing, really, in the office inside of Brookens, in the clerk’s office,” said Ammons. “So we moved it to the gym, and it’s much more spacious in there.”

Ammons says eleven additional early voting centers will open around Champaign County on Monday, October 19th. Each of the centers will be open to all Champaign County voters, regardless of where they live in the county.

But most other counties in east-central Illinois will limit early voting to their offices, using their regular facilities. Election officials report that they’re taking precautions against spreading the coronavirus, including frequent sanitizing of pens and voting machines, offering face masks to voters who have forgotten theirs, and extra space between voting booths, even if that means reducing the total number of booths.

In Macon County, early voters may cast ballots at the county clerk’s office in the Macon County Office Building, 141 South Main St. in Decatur.

In Vermilion County, Danville voters may go to the Danville Election Commission office, while residents of the rest of the county will use the Vermilion County Clerk’s office. Both offices are located in the Vermilion County Administration Building, 201 N. Vermilion St. in Danville.

September 24 is also the first day that election offices in Illinois can send out vote-by-mail ballots to voters who requested them. Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons says mail-in ballots should start arriving in mailboxes in his county around September 29 to October 1. Voters may mail them back, or drop them off as special ballot drop-boxes that the county clerk’s office is in the process of installing in various locations around Champaign-Urbana.

The Douglas County Clerk and Recorder’s office also plans to install a ballot drop-box in early October. It will be placed outside the Douglas County Courthouse in Tuscola.

Vermilion County Chief Deputy Clerk Lindsay Light says they’ve received about 2,700 applications for mail-in ballots so far — nearly three times the usual number.

“We’ve already seen that 2,700,” said Light. “We’re used to 800 to a thousand over six weeks. So I’d say we’re starting off huge.”

Director Sandy Delhaye with the Danville Election Commission reports another 1,700 applications for mail-in ballots from city residents.

Other counties are also reporting a jump in vote-by-mail applications. In Macon County, County Clerk Josh Tanner says the number of mail-in ballot applications is currently just short of 10,000, much more than their previous record of 3,000 during the 2019 election.

And in Champaign County, County Clerk Aaron Ammons says he’s preparing to mail out a “first wave” of about 23,000 mail-in ballots to applicants. He says the most ballots ever cast by mail in a previous election was roughly 8,000.

A new state law encourages vote-by-mail as a safer alternative during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ballot applications have been mailed to every voter who cast a ballot in the previous three elections back to 2018. Applications may also be made online. But voting by mail remains just one option for voters in Illinois, alongside voting early but in-person, and voting on Election Day, November 3.

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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