WIUM Tristates Public Radio

"A Very Unusual Election Year"

Oct 20, 2020

McDonough County Clerk Gretchen DeJaynes said voting is playing out much differently this fall than what she has seen in the past.

“It has been a very unusual election year,” said DeJaynes.

She said typically the final two weeks before an election are the busiest. But her office was “extremely busy” the first week-and-a-half of early voting this year with up to 200 people voting per day. She said it has slowed down since then but she expects the pace to pick up again as Election Day approaches.

DeJaynes also said her office has mailed out between 3,100 and 3,200 ballots and is still mailing out up to 50 ballots per day. She said normally the office mails out 1,000 to 1,500 ballots in advance of a presidential election.

However, she is not concerned about the large volume of mail ballots because the process is not new to Illinois.

“It’s not a process that we don’t know how to do. It has just been an enhanced process (this year),” she said.

DeJaynes estimated 1,200 to 1,500 of those ballots are still out. She said mail ballots must be counted if they are postmarked on Election Day or before. “But with that being said, I would not wait until the very last minute to do it,” she said.

She said the ballots can be mailed back or placed in the drop box outside the southeast corner of the courthouse in Macomb.

“We have only one drop box (in the county) because it has multiple security cameras on it. I was a little uncomfortable having any kind of a drop box where I couldn’t monitor it 24 hours a day,” DeJaynes said.

“We’ve had absolutely no problems. That is working very well and we’re getting multiple ballots back in the mail every day.”

She is concerned that some people who asked for a mail ballot will decide to instead vote in-person early or on Election Day. She said those people will need to hand over the mail ballot before they can cast an in-person ballot.

“If you do not, you will have to vote provisionally,” DeJaynes said. “That ballot will not be counted until 14 days after the election and that is very specifically so we have time to know whether your mail-in ballot came back.”

She said that is a state law.

An early voting polling place will be set up outside the Capitol Room in the Western Illinois University Union during the final two weeks of October. It will be open Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

In addition, the courthouse will continue to be open for early voting on weekdays, and it will be open the next two Saturdays (October 24 and October 31) for early voting. 

COVID Precautions

DeJaynes said face masks will be available at polling places for voters who forget to bring one.

“We can’t make it mandatory that a voter wears a face mask in the polling place. However, we are certainly, certainly, certainly encouraging that,” DeJaynes said.

She said plenty of hand sanitizer is available at the early voting locations. Her office is also providing election judges with wipes, face masks, and face shields. She said despite the pandemic, the county won’t have a shortage of election judges.

“We’ve been very fortunate here in McDonough County. We have had more people volunteer than we need this particular year,” she said.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.