Smile Politely

Ask Politely: 2020 voting questions answered

To say that this election is important might be an understatement. We know you have questions about the logistics of voting in a pandemic, during an election in which Republicans have been sowing seeds of doubt for years about the legitimacy of voting by mail, the reliability of the postal service, and whether or not your vote will be counted.

Please, we implore you to go vote. If you have a question that we do not answer here, you can contact the Champaign County Clerk’s office, or you can email us.

When is the election? 

Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd.  

I’m not registered to vote. Is it too late?

No! Voting registration forms are due by October 6th, online voter registration is available until October 18th. After that, registration must be completed at the Champaign County Clerk’s office, and you must vote immediately after. 

What’s the deal with voting by mail?

Double check that you have actually requested a vote by mail ballot. You can request a vote by mail ballot up to five days before the election (before October 29th), but remember the by mail part of the request. There is no guarantee that your ballot will arrive before election day, given the challenges facing the US Postal Service. The county clerk’s office recommends requesting as early as possible, and no later than October 22nd. 

If you’re worried about your ballot not arriving in time, you can return the completed version to one of the ballot drop off boxes around the county, and there will be drive up drop off events in Mahomet, St. Joseph, Tolono, and Rantoul on Saturdays in October. You may also drop off your completed ballot to election officials at any early voting location. 

All vote by mail ballots must be placed in the certification envelope provided. You must complete, sign, and seal the envelope. This is why many vote by mail ballots are rejected; make sure you fill in all of the required fields and that your signature matches the signature they have on file (which is to say, make sure you sign it like you would your driver’s license, not some throwaway restaurant receipt). 

Vote by mail ballots must be received within 14 days of the election.

When should folks expect their mail-in ballots?

The county clerk’s office began mailing requested ballots on September 24th. 

Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons, State Representative Carol Ammons, and other Champaign County elected officials pose for a photo around a vote by mail ballot return box. The box is anchored to the ground, bright yellow with blue text that says “Vote Here.†Photo from the Champaign County Clerk’s Facebook page.

Photo from the Champaign County Clerk’s Facebook page.

How long are drop off boxes around, and how will those ballots be collected?

Drop boxes will be available beginning September 24th through 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3rd. All ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3rd. The drive through drop off events will be every Saturday in October from 1 to 3 p.m. You can find locations for the drop boxes and the drop off events here.

The stand-alone drop box is a ¼ inch steel, highly secure drop box that is anchored to the ground. The contents are picked up daily by two Election Judges, one from each party. Boxes are in highly visible, well-trafficked areas with outdoor lighting. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

For the “drive & drop” events, there will be two election judges, one from each party, on site with a secure, portable ballot box and voters can drive up and drop their ballot in the box. After the drive and drop session, the judges will drive the ballots directly back to the Clerk’s Office to be processed. 

How are mail in ballots processed?

A Democrat and Republican election judge are present for every step of the process, whether they are picking up ballots from the drop boxes, or processing ballots that are mailed to the County Clerk’s office. Signatures are checked, then the ballot is processed. The results report is not generated yet. That will happen at 7 p.m. on November 3rd for the ballots that have been received. 

Does early voting remain unchanged? Is it possible to schedule a time to vote early?

Aside from wearing masks and maintaining a six foot circumference for personal bubbles, early voting remains unchanged. You cannot schedule a time to vote early, but there will be plenty of locations open more or less all day.

Where and when can I vote early?

Champaign County Clerk’s Office, Brookens Administrative Center, Gymnasium, 776 E Washington St, Urbana. Parking for the gymnasium is on the north side of the building, off of Art Bartell Road.

  • September 24, 2020 – October 18, 2020, Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  • October 19, 2020 – November 2, 2020, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On October 19th, 11 other sites around the county will open for early voting.

October 19, 2020 – November 2, 2020, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.;  Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations: 

  •     Activities and Recreation (ARC),  201 East Peabody Drive, Champaign, IL 61820

  •     Illini Union, 1401 West Green Street, Urbana, IL 61801

  •     Lake of the Woods, Elk’s Pavilion, 301 Senna Drive, Mahomet, IL 61853

  •     Leonhard Recreation Center, 2307 Sangamon Drive, Champaign, IL 61821

  •     Meadowbrook Community Church, 1902 South Duncan Road, Champaign, IL 61822

  •     Parkland College, Student Life Center, 2400 W Bradley, Champaign, IL 61821

  •     Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 802 East Douglas Street, St. Joseph, IL 61873

  •     The Church of the Living God, 312 East Bradley Avenue, Champaign, IL 61820

  •     The Gathering Place (First United Methodist Church), 200 South Century Boulevard, Rantoul, IL 61866

  •     Tolono Public Library, 111 East Main Street, Tolono, IL 61880

  •     University YMCA, 1001 S Wright St, Champaign, IL 61821

We requested mail in ballots but now I feel like voting early is the better option. Is it too late for us to do early voting?

No, but there are some conditions that must be met. In short, you’ve agreed to vote by mail and need to affirm that you will not be voting more than once. From Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons: 

We strongly recommend voters who have requested a vote by mail ballot to vote follow through and vote by mail. However, if the voter changes their mind they can simply take their ballot to their designated polling location, or a universal polling location, and surrender their ballot to an election judge. Surrender means handing the ballot over to an election judge who will write spoiled on the ballot, the voter will fill out an affidavit and then be allowed to vote a full ballot.

If you do not turn over your vote by mail ballot to officials you will have to vote provisionally. That means your vote will still count, but they will have to verify that you did not also send in a mail in ballot before it will count. 

If I want to vote in person, either early or on election day, what kind of safety precautions can I expect the polling places to have in place?

According to Ammons:

Voting locations will have Plexiglas barriers, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, masks, and gloves. The State Board of Elections helped procure tons of hand sanitizer for all election authorities around the state. We are working on partnering with CUPHD to have sanitation workers in all polling locations to help ease the burden on election judges. We will also have signage helping remind voters about wearing a mask, social distancing etc.

Who cleans up all those signs? And what is the environmental impact of a campaign? That’s a lot of printing signs, flyers, shirts, driving to events, etc., all for something that goes away in a few months.

You do! If you put some signs up in your yard, please clean them up. In Champaign, if they are posted in the public right-of-way (the space between the sidewalk and the curb, for instance), you may contact the city to have them removed. In Urbana these signs must be removed immediately following the election. (You can read more about sign regulations in C-U in this News-Gazette article.) 

We don’t have any hard data on the environmental impact, but yes, you’re right. There is a lot of stuff that is distributed only to be turned into waste. And yes, all of that is for something that “goes away in a few months”…except it doesn’t. Your elected officials hold office for at least two years. A presidential term is four years (let’s at least hope it stays that way).

Election day is the last day to vote, why is the emphasis there? Shouldn’t the first and “days till” be bannered like shopping days till Christmas? How can we get that message on the landscape?

We agree! There seems to have been more of an emphasis on early and by mail voting this cycle than in previous years, for obvious health reasons. A lot of people (Democrats, in particular) have been counting down the days for quite a long time (there are 33 days until November 3rd, by the way).

We hope that you will use your voice to remind your community to go vote early, and we will do our best here at Smile Politely to inform our readership about local components to this year’s election.

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