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Voters And Officials Report Smooth Election Day In Central Illinois

Voters at Maranatha Church in Decatur on Election Day, November 3, 2020

Editor’s note: These stories were reported by University of Illinois journalism students, with coverage coordinated by College Of Media journalism professor Chris Evans and professional journalists at Illinois Public Media.

UPDATED Wednesday at 1:30 a.m.:

Thousands of Mail-In Ballots Being Counted In Champaign County

URBANA – Champaign County’s chief elections officer, County Clerk Aaron Ammons, says the county received more than one thousand mail-in ballots on Tuesday. He also says that they are expecting to receive even more ballots within the next few days. “Yeah absolutely, so there’s probably going to be another 4,000 or something like that come in after November 3rd but people who are mailing them in, I don’t anticipate receiving all of those but a good percentage of them will come in,” said Ammons. Despite mail-in ballots coming in throughout the week, Ammons says county officials are confident that they will have reliable results. According to Ammons, more than 20,000 citizens cast their ballots on election day in-person but most of the votes are coming from early voting. This brings Champaign County’s in-person voting total to more than 96,000. – Cesar Sanchez & Jim Meadows 

Macon County Officials Say Vote Effort Was Smooth

DECATUR – The chief election official of Macon County, Josh Tanner, says Macon County polling places operated smoothly and votes were counted efficiently. However, he also says new election judges slowed the process down. “I think most of the precincts got in in a pretty short order,” said Tanner. “They’re just unfamiliar with the closing procedures and so it takes them a little longer to get the polling place close up and all the numbers totaled out.” Not all votes were counted by the end of election day. Tanner says there is an outstanding amount of mail-in ballots that have not been counted, and many mail-in ballots were not turned in. “Obviously you can’t mail it in at this point in time, but we’re going to try and make sure everybody knows how to find out if we’ve received it if they’re still awaiting theirs to be received,” said Tanner. He says the amount of mail-in ballots yet to be counted is unknown but that Macon County voters should have their election results within the next couple of days. – Gwyn Skiles

Vermillion County Sees Largest Turnout Ever

DANVILLE – To the surprise of county officials, Vermillion County’s voter turnout—in the middle of a pandemic—was the largest the county has ever seen. More than 73% of all registered voters cast ballots this year: far more than in previous years. For County Clerk Cathy Jenkins, it was a huge surprise. “I think we were pleasantly surprised because we thought we would see a reduction in the polling places because we had such an increased rise in our early-voting and vote-by-mail,” said Jenkins. However, we did not see that. We did see an increase in the voting polling places as well, which tells me that we were explicitly surprised that overall the election was a much higher turnout than originally, previously, that we had seen.” Although unofficial results for Vermilion County outside of Danville were finalized a little after 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, Jenkins said they won’t have official numbers until November 17 because of mail-in ballots for this election. – Farrah Anderson

Coles County Reports Stable Election Effort

CHARLESTON – In Charleston, Coles County Clerk Julie Coe said that she felt things went smoothly with the election and that she received many positive responses on how safe voters felt. Coe said that Charleston had 495 early voters and nearly 4,000  mail-in ballots. Charleston resident Bradley Douglas Iberg voted by mail because of safety concerns. Iberg was at the Home Church polling place on Election Day for his roommate, who chose to vote in person, and said he wanted to do his part for the country with as little contact as possible. “I just feel like there is nothing I can do unless I vote and even then it’s kind of the smallest thing I can do,” said Iberg.  Unofficial results show the county leaning Republican for all elected offices. – Vivian La


UPDATED Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.:

University of Illinois Students Letting Their Votes Count 

Voters line up on the University of Illinois Urbana campus on Election Day, November 3, 2020 Vivian La

URBANA – University of Illinois students are lined up at polling sites on campus. The YMCA has a line of more than two dozen students going out the door. Some supporters of Betsy Dirksen Londrigan are driving around campus encouraging students to vote. Dirksen Londrigan is the Democratic candidate in the 13th congressional district race. She is trying to unseat Republican incumbent Rodney Davis. Many students are voting for issues like human rights and climate change. Jessica Van Dyke, a junior, says she’s most concerned about the environment in this election. “Personally I’m most concerned about the environment but I’ll take what I can get,” said Van Dyke. Students in line also say it’s important to vote, even if the chosen candidates aren’t their first choice. – Marissa Plescia, Vivian La 

URBANA – As lines at the University of Illinois Urbana campus stretch throughout the Illini Union on to the quad, close to 50 students wait in line. And for some students, they’re waiting to cast their ballots for a third party. Mashyia Moon, a senior studying English, says decided to vote for neither Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Neither party has aligned with her views. The people that we are left to vote for, I feel like they aren’t really looking out for the minorities. I’m a minority myself,” said Moon.As racial tensions are heightened in the wake of debates over police brutality, some minority voters are taking their frustration to the ballots, with nonpartisan reporters for third party presidential candidates. – Farrah Anderson


Trump Top Of Mind For Vermilion County Voters

DANVILLE – For people voting in-person in Vermilion County in the city of Danville, mail-in ballots can be a source of anxiety. As voters take issues to the in-person polls today, some say President Trump’s handling of the pandemic is at the top of their list. Cindy Parr-Barrett, a librarian at Edison Elementary in Danville, started to tear up outside of the clubhouse. For her, the rights of all people and the handling of the pandemic are a priority. “I follow science, I don’t follow a random person,” said Parr-Barrett. “I wouldn’t go to a gynecologist for a dental appointment.”  While everyone was masked up, voters said the polling was socially distanced at the Harrison Park Clubhouse polling place. For those voting blue and red, they say the way the pandemic has played out has influenced their votes. – Farrah Anderson


High Turnout Underway In Vermilion County

DANVILLE – As voters throughout Vermilion County head to the polls today to cast their ballots in-person, County Clerk Cathy Jenkins says that she’s excited to see the largest voter turnout since she became County Clerk. A sign on the polling place door says masks are required. But, at in-person polling places, she says, masks have been deemed optional. “We kind of call America, and we’re thinking it’s personal responsibility and people can take care of themselves in that area,” said Jenkins. Although most voters were showing up to the polls in downtown Danville in masks, many employees inside the County’s Clerk’s office, including the county clerk herself, were not wearing them. Some voters at other Harrison Park Clubhouse said they felt uncomfortable after hearing rumors that many people downtown were not masked up. – Farrah Anderson


Mason County Students Say It’s Their Duty To Vote

DECATUR – Students from Millikin University standing in line to vote today in Decatur say they showed up because they believe it’s their duty to vote. Student Zachary Hojdik encountered problems with his registration but still cast his ballot. “I guess I wasn’t in the registry, I voted in the primaries and I had to redo it for this one, which is strange but I mean it only took two minutes to redo it and send it back in,” said Hojdik. “[The] voting process took like a minute or two and I was done in 5 to 10 minutes.” Hojdik says he persisted because local and national candidates and their policies affect students. Millikin University helps their students register to vote and also offers free bus rides to and from voting locations near campus. – Cesar Sanchez, Gwyn Skiles 


Coles County Voters Focused On Presidential Race

CHARLESTON – In Coles County, voters at Home Church in Charleston are divided in this year’s election and are focused on the presidential race. Those voting for Republicans are concerned about how Democrats will handle the economy. Those voting for Democrats are concerned about pandemic response and President Donald J. Trump’s actions during his term. Charleston resident Andrew York believes that President Trump has failed to handle the pandemic: “I feel like Donald Trump has done a fine enough job, but 200,000 people have died from COVID. I feel like, if he had acted earlier, it wouldn’t have been such an issue.” Charleston resident James Oakley consistently voted Democratic until 2016, when he voted for Trump. Oakley is voting for him again this year. “He is a businessman. We need a businessman to run this country like a business and not these career politicians.” Voters at Home Church said it was quick and easy to cast their ballot and did not wait long. – Marissa Plescia, Vivian La

Audio editing by Julia Morrison of the University of Illinois.

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