County Clerks Prepare For 2020 Election As Pandemic Continues

May 11, 2020

Local officials across Illinois are preparing for the 2020 election amid concerns over how the coronavirus may affect the logistics of the election. Several voting locations used during the March 17 primaries have been linked to coronavirus cases. An election judge in Chicago died from complications due to coronavirus a few weeks after the primary.

Many election judges across Illinois are over the age of 60, putting them at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. Many election judges may decide not to work in November which could strain local polling places.

One solution suggested by Illinois lawmakers is to expand mail-in voting measures. Joe Tirio, the McHenry county clerk and recorder spoke about the political push for such measures.

“There have been efforts to expand vote by mail predating coronavirus. There were two bills in the last legislative session addressing this and there’s an appetite for it on the federal level,” Tirio said.

Some lawmakers and activists are pushing for a universal vote-by-mail system for the November election. Tirio warned that this system would take immense amounts of time, effort, and funds. Counties would need to print ballots, mail them to registered voters, and include return postage and envelopes.

“I’m concerned that the legislature may decide too late… that they might make requirements that we would not be able to fulfill… If we don’t hear until July, it might be impossible to create mail-in ballots for every voter in McHenry County in time for the election,” Tirio said.

Mail-in ballots are a source of partisan tension, as they are often cited as much more likely to be fraudulent. However, experts agree that while mail-in ballots are potentially more vulnerable to fraud, it is rare.

State Senator Julie Morrison has announced she will submit a bill to expand vote by mail initiatives when the state legislature reconvenes.