Vote 2020: Illinois prepares for onslaught of mail-in votes, ensuring safety for in-person voting

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Election officials across Illinois are preparing for the 2020 election, with the hopes of using lessons learned from the primary to avoid COVID-19 complications that made voting so challenging.

Their main focus is gearing up for the onslaught of people voting by mail, while also making significant preparations to ensure voting in-person is safe during the pandemic.

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"We're going to have a lot of things in place. We can plan now, we know what happened in March, and we know what to do a little better," said Marisel Hernandez, Chair of the Chicago Board of Elections.

The governor's office is also taking an active role.

"I have talked to the Board of Elections. I have talked to, my staff has talked to clerks across the state to make sure that they're preparing for hand sanitizer, for people wearing masks who are manning those posts at the ballots," Gov. JB Pritzker said.

The pandemic has prompted an unprecedented number of requests for mail-in ballots. Will County mail-in ballots have tripled in number from March, as the Chicago Board of Elections reports a record number of requests.

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A step-by-step guide to requesting an Illinois mail-in ballot.



"As of this morning we have 369,000 vote by mail applications compare that to the March primary where we had 118,000," Hernandez said on Friday.

Election officials are utilizing secure drop boxes this year, for the first time, to help make it easier for people to vote by mail. They are also trying to entice more people to sign up to be election judges. Several county clerks even offering a boost in pay.

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DuPage County doubled their election judge rate from $130 to $260. Will County approved a pay hike from $150 to $250 Friday.

"They're gonna have a lot of extra responsibilities," said Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry. "I think this time around, you know, just with all of the cleaning constantly; the cleaning of the voting booths, the cleaning of the counters, making sure that people are socially distanced."

Election authorities are hoping that with training and safety protocols, there won't be a rash of people quitting or not showing up on Election Day, which is now just 52 days away.

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"I think if we follow all of the precautions that are set in place, we will be okay," said first-time election judge, Anita Sally. "I mean there's always concerns. I'm not scared, but there's always concerns."

To download the vote-by-mail application, visit elections.il.gov/electionoperations/votingbymail.aspx.
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