Coronavirus not slowing early voting, but suburban election officials are taking precautions
Suburban voters haven't been scared away from early voting by coronavirus fears, according to suburban election officials.
But that hasn't stopped officials from stockpiling hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes at the dozens of polling places throughout the region.
More ballots have been cast in the first week of early voting this year than in the 2016 presidential primary in Cook, DuPage and Kane counties, according to county clerks there.
Cook County reported almost 35,000 ballots cast during early voting's first five days, up from 27,159 in the 2016 primary. Almost 1,500 more ballots have been cast during the first week of early voting in DuPage County than were tallied during the same time frame in 2016, County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek said.
Kane County officials said early vote totals in the first week are almost double what they had in 2016, but that's also due, in part, to the county's Aurora voters casting ballots with them instead of a now-defunct election commission.
Only Lake County has seen fewer ballots cast so far than in 2016, but County Clerk Robin O'Connor thinks the drop has more to do with politics than health concerns.
"We believe that it was related to the number of candidates on the Democratic presidential ballot and not the coronavirus," O'Connor said.
There were 7,376 ballots cast during Lake County's first five days of early voting this year, compared to the 11,404 early votes in 2016.
There are also more early voting sites in Cook, DuPage and Lake counties this year, despite coronavirus concerns. Still, suburban election officials are urging voters to vote by mail.
"As long as it's postmarked by March 17, it will be counted and I encourage any voter to do so, especially those in at-risk populations," Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham said.
The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Thursday.
Clerks said they have issued bottles of hand sanitizer to each location and asked election officials on site to wipe down voting booths frequently. Other precautions are being taken as well.
"We are encouraging voters ... to bring their own pens, either black or blue, to sign their applications for a ballot and mark their ballots," O'Connor said.
Election officials said they haven't changed any polling places, although some health officials have suggested moving any voting sites out of nursing homes or retirement communities.
Cunningham said his office will use the "Vote Mobile" at a day-of polling place instead of having voters go inside the facility.