'Every single vote will be counted,' as Cook County on pace to 'shatter' early-voting, mail-in records
With early voting and requests for mail-in ballots already exceeding records, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough provided an update Tuesday on the counting process, pledging that every vote would be tallied.
"Despite the tremendous challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on all of us -- and I mean all of us -- it's clear to me that the voters are not going to allow this virus to suppress their right to vote," Yarbrough said during a news conference at Elections Operations Center in Cicero.
"And as the Cook County clerk, I could not be more proud and more enthused to administer a voting process that is open, equitable and will ensure that every single vote will be counted," she said.
Yarbrough said her office has received more than 550,000 requests for mail-in ballots, approximately five times the requests in 2016. And as of Tuesday, more than 230,000 suburban Cook County residents had voted early, compared to 161,000 on the same day of early voting four years ago.
As of Monday, 257,000 voters had online confirmation that their mail-in ballots had been received, according to the clerk's office, with 61,000 more expected Tuesday.
Members of Yarbrough's staff said the Elections Operations Center can validate up to 80,000 mail-in ballots per day, with most going through the process within a day to a day and a half after their arrival there.
For those who have not seen online confirmation within two weeks of mailing their ballot, or who are still experiencing a delay early next week, voting in person is recommended, officials said.
The news conference at the Cicero election headquarters took place in a room with a video screen showing ballot processing in a large room nearby. The process includes procedures that ensure only one ballot per voter will be counted, officials said.
Signatures on every mail-in ballot are reviewed by three independent judges, all trained to recognize what aspects of people's signatures do and don't change over time.
The 1.6 million registered voters the clerk's office is serving during this election represent an all-time high, Yarbrough said.
"It's been an unprecedented election, and the volume of ballots has been tremendous," she said.
"This is a huge county, but I've gone to many of these suburban early voting locations in these past weeks and I can tell you there is a tremendous amount of energy and excitement out there. Voters are determined to make their vote count. They don't mind standing in line to do so. With one week left, we're on pace to shatter all previous records in Cook County."
Yarbrough and her staff said there is little doubt that COVID-19 inspired much of the new interest in early and mail-in voting this year. New equipment and other process changes have added more than $3 million to the cost of the election in Cook County.