Lake County clerk opens mobile office to expand outreach
Some Lake County children got their first taste of the voting process at the debut of the county clerk's new mobile office trailer.
Officials hope to set up the mobile office across the county to expand outreach efforts and even offer services away from the clerk's Waukegan office.
On display in the new mobile office last weekend at the Grant Township Fall Festival were some of the county's voting machines, and children and adults were encouraged to give them a go. But instead of selecting politicians, voters were asked to pick their favorite superheroes.
Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor said it was nice to see young and old alike learn about the machines and engage in the process in an environment where they could get their questions answered. (Spider-Man won the mock election in a landslide.)
"What we loved about it were all the questions we received about elections, taxes and vital services," O'Connor said. "Everyone who walked away from the mobile satellite had an answer or knew we were going to call them with one."
Like an especially practical Transformer robot, the mobile office appears at first to be merely an inconspicuous trailer. But with a little work it is changed into a cozy office space with stairs, a small balcony, big windows and enough room for several staff and visitors at a time.
O'Connor said among the top questions from visitors had to do with the security of the voting process.
"It was great to show people and let them see the machines in use," O'Connor said. "We are extremely safe and secure in our process and what better way to show that than by bringing the equipment out?"
O'Connor said she is interested in taking the mobile office trailer to many more community events.
At the first event, the clerk's office offered services such as voter registration and verification and recruitment of election judges. O'Connor said at future events she hopes to expand the services offered.
"How wonderful would it be to be able to go to the furthest parts of the county and issue marriage licenses," O'Connor said. "Or go to all the different high schools and have them see the equipment and maybe have the ones who are old enough cast a ballot."
The mobile office was funded through a grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to modernizing the American election process. No taxpayer money was used, O'Connor said.
"We want to keep it busy, want to keep it out and about," O'Connor said of the mobile office. "The intention is not for it to sit, it is to be out there with the people."