Drop your vote-by-mail ballot here. Counties installing secure boxes to collect ballots
With concerns about U.S. mail service and election tampering growing, Lake County officials this week said people will be able to deposit vote-by-mail ballots in more than a dozen secure boxes throughout the county ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
They aren't alone in trying to boost confidence in the voting process.
More than 50 drop boxes for mail-in ballots will be installed throughout suburban Cook County. Sites will include the village halls in Arlington Heights, Barrington Hills, Elk Grove Village, Glenview, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Northbrook and Streamwood, as well as libraries in Des Plaines and Wheeling.
Two drop boxes will be securely installed at the DuPage County complex in Wheaton — one in the parking lot and one inside, Chief Deputy Clerk Adam Johnson said. Additionally, nearly 300 drop boxes will be placed at all early voting locations and Election Day polling places in the county, Johnson said.
One drop box has been installed in McHenry County, at the administration building in Woodstock.
And in Kane County, Clerk John Cunningham said three such boxes — one each in Elgin, Geneva and Aurora — will be set up.
The action comes as more and more people who planned to vote by mail in Illinois and across the nation are worying their ballots won't be counted because of procedural and equipment changes within the U.S. Postal Service.
The agency has sent letters to Illinois and 45 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., warning it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted.
The Postal Service had been removing or disabling public mailboxes and mail-sorting machines. After a public outcry and legislative inquiries, agency officials say those efforts will stop.
This week, the U.S. House will vote on legislation aimed at prohibiting the Postal Service from implementing any changes to operations or service levels that had been in place at the start of this year. The proposal is supported by several Democratic lawmakers from the Chicago area.
This is the first time drop boxes specifically for mail-in ballots will be used in Illinois. They were legalized in June when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation expanding voting-by-mail options statewide because of the pandemic.
Lake County will install 16 or 17 drop boxes for ballots at early voting sites, Chief Deputy Clerk Todd Govain said. The locations haven't yet been finalized.
Some will be unattended but physically secured and put under video surveillance, Govain said. Voters will be able to use those boxes around the clock when voting by mail begins Sept. 24, Govain said.
Other boxes will be monitored by election judges between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2.
Once the roster of early voting sites and drop-box sites is complete, locations and operating hours will be posted on the county clerk's website, lakecountyil.gov/161/County-Clerk. Anyone who requests a mail-in ballot will be notified, too, Govain said.
Although his office is installing drop boxes for ballots, Kane County's Cunningham thinks the issue has become political and is overblown. He's confident in the postal service's ability to deliver ballots on time and said a postal worker told him the expected increase in mailed ballots will be no worse than the extra business the agency gets at Christmas.
“They think they're going to be able to handle it,” Cunningham said.
• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.