New Early Voting Locations

This morning, we announced plans to conduct Early Voting at eight locations in Champaign County for the November 6, 2012, General Election.  This blog post will echo a Memo prepared to update our Champaign County Board on the topic, and is intended to provide some background information on Early Voting, its history in Champaign County, summarizes our priorities in planning for November’s election and attempts to answer anticipated questions.  The attached documents are:

  • Table 1 indicating the seven new Early Voting locations and the precincts available at each location.
  • Table 2 indicating each of Champaign County’s 118 precincts and the Early Voting locations that will be available to the voters in each precinct.
  • Map Set 1 indicating the geographic area of the precincts available at each of the seven new Early Voting locations.

Early Voting was first implemented in Illinois for the 2006 General Election.  Other than a pilot program in November 2010 on the University of Illinois Campus (in compliance with a now-expired state mandate), Early Voting in Champaign County has only been available at the Champaign County Clerk’s Office at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana.  Other Illinois Election Authorities have offered Early Voting at multiple locations other than the Office of the Election Authority, and have seen significantly higher Early Voting participation rates.

For example, Madison County, which offers Early Voting at 10 locations other than the County Clerk’s Office, has an Early Voting rate that roughly doubles Champaign County.  For the 2008 General Election, almost 21 percent of the total votes cast in Madison County were early votes.  For the same election, about eight percent of total votes cast in Champaign County were early votes.

At a fundamental level, voting is the act of individuals exercising choices.  The exercising of a voter’s choice is most often considered in the context of choosing the candidates and referenda for whom or for which they wish to vote.  However, Illinois Election Law now allows for voters to choose not only for whom they will vote, but often the timing, location and method of voting.

Our plan for the November 6, 2012 General Election will greatly expand voters’ choices in the timing, location and method of voting and we believe this is a logical extension of the services we should provide to voters in Champaign County.

For the November 6, 2012 General Election, in accordance with 10 ILCS 5/19A-20, for the first time we will offer Early Voting at seven locations in Champaign County in addition to the County Clerk’s Office.  These seven new locations have been chosen to comply with the legal requirements governing Early Voting, in accordance with our standards for security and accessibility, and with an emphasis on convenience and fairness to the voters of Champaign County.

Under 10 ILCS 5/19A-20, “the election authority may establish temporary branch polling places for early voting.”  At these “temporary” early voting sites, we do not have to have all ballot styles available, the schedules do not need to be uniform nor are we required to offer early voting for the full period.  Our plan is to accommodate voters from up to 20 proximal precincts at each new Early Voting location.  Champaign County uses ES&S M100 optical scan tabulators to conduct our Early, Absentee and polling place voting.  Each M100 tabulator can read ballots from up to 10 precincts.  Champaign County purchased an additional 12 M100 Tabulators, enough to handle all precincts in the County, in response to the 2010 Campus Early Voting mandate, and our plan is to distribute those 12 tabulators across the seven new Early Voting locations.  Five of the new locations will receive two M100 Tabulators each and can accommodate up to 20 precincts, and two of the new locations will receive one M100 Tabulator each and can accommodate up to 10 precincts.  Table 1 indicates which precincts will be available at each of the new Early Voting Locations.

In addition, our plan is to offer Early Voting at the seven new locations for nearly the same dates and hours that Early Voting is required at the County Clerk’s Office.  Details are still being finalized due to SB 3722, which is pending legislation that may impact the beginning and ending dates of Early Voting.

For the November 6, 2012 General Election, Early Voting will be available as is our normal practice, at the Champaign County Clerk’s Office at Brookens Administrative Center, 1776 East Washington, in Urbana.  This location will be available to all registered voters in all 118 precincts in Champaign County.

The second location will be located on the University of Illinois Campus, in the Illini Union Room 317, 1401 West Green Street, Urbana.  This location was selected with input from the Illini Union management and University of Illinois Student Government leaders.  This location will be available as an Early Voting location to approximately 22,632 registered voters in the 20 precincts in closest proximity to the UI Campus.  In addition, if SB 3722 is enacted, this location complies with the state’s mandate of an Early Voting location on our public University’s campus that is contained in that legislation.  We are indebted to Sen. Mike Frerichs and Rep. Naomi Jakobsson for their collaboration with us on SB 3722.  The amendments they supported to SB 3722 will allow us to operate all seven of our new Early Voting locations rather than requiring us to use all our available equipment at the UI Campus location.

The third location will be located in North Champaign, at Spalding Recreation Center, 910 North Harris, Champaign.  Spalding Recreation Center is our normal Election Day polling place for City of Champaign 6 and 10, and will be available as an Early Voting location to approximately 23,307 voters in 20 precincts in close proximity.

The fourth location will be located in Southwest Champaign, at Meadowbrook Community Church Room 133, 1902 South Duncan, Champaign.  Meadowbrook Community Church is our normal Election Day polling place for City of Champaign 33, and will be available as an Early Voting location to approximately 25,532 voters in 20 precincts in close proximity.

The fifth location will be in Mahomet, at Grace Church, 800 West Oak, Mahomet.  Grace Church is our normal Election Day polling place for Mahomet 2, and will be available as an Early Voting location to approximately 21,561 voters in 19 precincts in west and northwest Champaign County.

The sixth location will be in Rantoul, at Rantoul Recreation Center, 100 East Flessner, Rantoul.  This Early Voting location will be available to approximately 15,354 voters in 20 precincts in northern Champaign County.

The seventh location will be in St. Joseph, at the St. Joseph Village Annex, 201 Second Street, St. Joseph.  This Early Voting location will be available to approximately 8,370 voters in 10 precincts in eastern Champaign County.

The eighth location will be in Tolono, at the Tolono Public Library, 111 E. Main Street, Tolono.  This Early Voting location will be available to approximately 8,697 voters in 10 precincts in southern Champaign County.

The expense of operating the seven new Early Voting locations has been greatly reduced due to our having purchased the twelve additional M100 tabulators to comply with the 2010 mandate to conduct Early Voting on the UI Campus.  We anticipate our expenses for operating the seven additional locations for the November 6, 2012 General Election to be largely relating to the hiring of Election Judges to staff the new locations.  This expense is manageable within our existing budgetary authority granted by the County Board, and will be more than offset by savings we have realized from in-house ballot printing and other operational improvements.  In addition, we anticipate that widespread use of our seven new Early Voting locations may reduce congestion at Election Day polling places, and we anticipate requiring fewer Election Judges on Election Day as a result.

We will implement this plan for seven new Early Voting locations for the November 6, 2012 General Election.  Post-election, we will evaluate it, make improvements where necessary and if possible we hope to continue to offer Early Voting at all seven new locations for all future countywide elections.

We are excited about this new service we will provide to Champaign County’s voters.  We have been planning this for more than a year and many people have cooperated and should be acknowledged.  First, the staff in the County Clerk’s Office is creative, efficient and responsive.  They have been instrumental in planning and implementing this service.  Other County Departments have been critical as well, especially Administrative Services and Information Technology.  The seven facilities we are using to host our new Early Voting locations are being provided to us at no expense, and we must acknowledge the University of Illinois Illini Union, Champaign Park District, Meadowbrook Community Church, Grace Church, Rantoul Recreation Department, Village of St. Joseph and Tolono Public Library for their generosity and willingness to accommodate us and the voters of Champaign County.  Finally, the collaboration of Sen. Mike Frerichs and Rep. Naomi Jakbosson on SB 3722 has provided us with the legal authority to implement this plan and for that we are grateful.

As the Election Authority can implement this plan under 10 ILCS 5/19A, and because we are seeking no additional budgetary authority, at this time there is no County Board action required.  However, we are aware that this is a subject that has been of considerable interest to both the Board and the public for many years.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss any aspect of this plan, please email me or post in comments here.  Thank you.

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