Illinois mail in ballot requests pass 1 million and counting

More than 1 million Illinoisans have applied to vote by mail for the November election, roughly triple the number of the last presidential contest in 2016.

Posted: Sep 7, 2020 10:15 AM
Updated: Sep 7, 2020 10:18 AM

CHICAGO (AP) — More than 1 million Illinoisans have applied to vote by mail for the November election, roughly triple the number of the last presidential contest in 2016.

The record number during the pandemic has left election officials scrambling to adjust and some voters worried about the process. Meanwhile, a partisan battle over the practice is unfolding in the courts weeks before the first ballots go out.

Here’s a closer look:

A SURGE OF INTEREST

Amber Drea, a suburban Chicago parent and freelance writer, plans to mail vote for the first time. The 42-year-old wants to avoid Election Day crowds because her son has health issues that put him at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

“We are trying our hardest to stay away from people as much as possible,” she said. “Whenever there is a way, we will do that instead.”

She’s among the roughly 1.3 million Illinoisans who’ve requested mail ballots so far, according to the State Board Elections. Voters have until Oct. 29 to request mail ballots, but election and U.S. Postal Service officials recommend voters act earlier for ample time to receive and mail ballots.

Still, the numbers have already eclipsed years past, a trend that’s expected nationwide. In 2016, there were 427,993 requested mail ballots and 222,055 in 2012, according to the elections board.

Interest in mail voting has steadily grown since 2010, the first year Illinois made it available for all voters without having to provide a reason. More than 30 states have “no excuse” absentee voting.

This year’s spike follows a law expanding mail voting, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed in July to address coronavirus concerns. Among other things, the law makes Election Day a holiday for schools and government employees and requires that anyone who voted in elections since 2018 be sent an application.

As a result, election officials sent 6.4 million applications statewide.

PREPARING FOR NOVEMBER

Election officials are making adjustments to address the volume. The first mail ballots will be sent to voters on Sept. 24, when early voting begins.

In southwestern Illinois, St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook said the office has received more than 25,000 mail ballot requests. That’s compared with roughly 9,200 people who cast ballots by mail in 2016. He said his office will hire more people to handle the influx.

Others are debating whether to offer secure ballot drop boxes as another option with reports of mail delays, concerns about ballots being delivered on time and President Donald Trump’s campaign against mail ballots, which he’s called the biggest risk to his re-election.

Chicago said there’ll be a least 50 boxes, with one in each city ward, according to Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

But dozens of Illinois’ 108 election jurisdictions have said they won’t offer them, according to an elections board survey in July.

In far southern Illinois’ Massac County, there aren’t resources that meet security requirements, according to Clerk Hailey Miles. She said she doesn’t have any concerns about mail problems.

Other election officials have already changed their minds.

Madison County decided to provide one indoors at the county building in Edwardsville. Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza said that was the only way to guarantee security.

After hearing from voters, Holbrook said St. Clair County will place one outside the courthouse in Belleville. It’ll be under 24-hour surveillance with ballots collected daily.

“There were concerns by the many voters that the postal system may not be as reliable,” he said.

THE POLITICS

While both parties have previously promoted and benefited from mail voting, Republicans largely rejected the expansion plan.

State Rep. Mark Batinick, a Plainfield Republican, has often voted by mail and pushed it as part of his 2018 re-election bid. That year he narrowly won his race by about 100 votes, after mail and provisional ballots were counted.

But he didn’t support the expansion, arguing it was designed to benefit Democrats. For instance, he says it sends applications to voters who cast ballots in years when Democrats made gains. Other Republicans have warned of widespread fraud, though there has been no evidence of it.

Democrats reject the claims, saying the law benefits all and removes barriers, particularly in a pandemic.

Batinick said he’s still pushing mail voting.

“If it’s here, you better embrace what’s here because the other side is embracing it,” he said. “If you vote absentee, their vote is in the bank. Anything can happen on Election Day.”

A pending federal lawsuit against the expansion could further complicate things. Cook County Republicans allege expanded mail voting is a partisan scheme.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee intervened, accusing Republicans of “playing politics and risking the lives of Illinoisans by forcing them to choose between exercising their right to vote or the health and safety of themselves and their families.”

The judge has indicated he’ll rule before ballots go out this month.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ attorney general has warned of robocalls spreading misinformation, including fraudulent calls saying mail voting will give private information to third parties like police.

Election officials and advocacy groups, who say mail voting is as secure as in-person voting, are advising voters to think ahead. The new law says voters who request a ballot on or before Oct. 1, must get them by Oct. 6.

“This year, more than ever, it’s really important that you plan your vote, especially if you are going to vote by mail,” said Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich. “Get your application in now. Don’t wait.”

__

Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

Terre Haute
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 66°
Robinson
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 64°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 66°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
67° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 67°
Casey
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 70°
Brazil
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 66°
Marshall
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 66°
Clear & Cool
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

The COVID-19 booster shot

Image

Vigo County Veteran's Court graduates 40th member

Image

A little rain chance - and then nice. Here's look at the weekend forecast

Image

Terre Haute church works to collect items for evacuated Afghan kids

Image

The Paris Honey Bee Festival

Image

Explore Wabashiki

Image

Pow Wow Day in Vigo County

Image

Daviess County offers $5,000 to people to move to the community

Image

Workforce Fit

Image

Duke Energy plans to bring solar farms to Sullivan County

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1608825

Reported Deaths: 27176
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook61448710970
DuPage1040741359
Will874621090
Lake772361061
Kane65993851
Winnebago39106545
Madison38249578
St. Clair35065570
McHenry33116316
Peoria26021362
Champaign25923183
Sangamon24663271
McLean21935208
Tazewell19792326
Rock Island17877346
Kankakee16821235
Kendall15501107
Macon14525244
LaSalle14520275
Vermilion13288190
Adams12718148
DeKalb11695129
Williamson11483159
Whiteside7925176
Jackson772889
Boone761282
Coles7381113
Ogle715787
Grundy702881
Franklin691399
Clinton682098
Knox6677164
Marion6559138
Macoupin649399
Henry624074
Jefferson6086132
Effingham608582
Livingston572896
Woodford555191
Stephenson548889
Randolph530297
Monroe509199
Christian493980
Fulton489670
Morgan488196
Logan478674
Montgomery469276
Lee459558
Bureau428388
Perry415871
Saline411764
Fayette401358
Iroquois395873
McDonough356256
Jersey323153
Shelby315643
Douglas307336
Crawford306030
Lawrence301931
Union297147
Wayne274657
White266830
Richland263255
Hancock258434
Pike256856
Clark251938
Cass251528
Bond244424
Clay240747
Edgar236345
Ford235656
Warren226061
Carroll225837
Johnson214424
Moultrie212431
Jo Daviess206926
Washington206227
Wabash201616
Greene200939
Mason200151
Massac199544
De Witt196330
Piatt191414
Mercer191234
Cumberland179325
Menard159812
Jasper153118
Marshall134921
Hamilton129521
Brown10198
Pulaski98711
Schuyler9728
Edwards96615
Stark77027
Gallatin7496
Scott6975
Alexander67811
Henderson65614
Calhoun6452
Hardin56114
Putnam5454
Pope4845
Unassigned1892432
Out of IL80

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 944708

Reported Deaths: 15343
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1287051987
Lake634321097
Allen53759760
Hamilton43980448
St. Joseph42010590
Elkhart33651491
Vanderburgh30486449
Tippecanoe26872250
Johnson23685417
Hendricks22354341
Porter21799347
Clark17493231
Madison17439384
Vigo16209284
Monroe14515191
LaPorte14350239
Delaware14134222
Howard13921273
Kosciusko11448135
Hancock10886166
Warrick10715177
Bartholomew10589169
Floyd10471206
Wayne10020226
Grant9165204
Morgan8895160
Boone8417111
Dubois7748123
Dearborn764990
Henry7648130
Noble7435101
Marshall7384128
Cass7209117
Lawrence6999153
Shelby6616111
Jackson659186
Gibson6177107
Harrison606286
Huntington603195
Montgomery5830105
DeKalb578391
Knox5506104
Miami545788
Putnam540568
Clinton535965
Whitley526553
Steuben499768
Wabash486292
Jasper481860
Jefferson472892
Ripley456077
Adams445568
Daviess4209108
Scott407965
White392957
Clay392857
Greene390592
Wells388784
Decatur385996
Fayette377278
Posey361541
Jennings354356
Washington333747
LaGrange323575
Spencer319536
Fountain317955
Randolph314889
Sullivan308449
Owen284863
Starke281464
Fulton280054
Orange276859
Jay256338
Perry252552
Carroll244929
Franklin240538
Rush235630
Vermillion234450
Parke221020
Tipton210555
Pike209539
Blackford169634
Pulaski165551
Crawford146718
Newton145245
Benton143516
Brown135546
Martin129317
Switzerland126210
Warren115516
Union97711
Ohio80111
Unassigned0479