Lake County reports surge in votes by mail

  • The Lake County clerk's office, at the Lake County courthouse annex in Waukegan, reported that it has already received 32,367 mail-in ballots.

    The Lake County clerk's office, at the Lake County courthouse annex in Waukegan, reported that it has already received 32,367 mail-in ballots. Daily Herald File Photo, 2019

 
 
Updated 10/17/2020 12:47 PM

Though the election is still more than two weeks away, the Lake County Clerk's office has already received 32,367 mail-in ballots.

For comparison, Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor said about 28,000 vote-by-mail ballots had been collected by Election Day in 2016.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And though so far the county's only early voting site is at the Waukegan courthouse, already 5,459 votes have been cast there.

"That number is huge for the courthouse," O'Connor said Friday.

O'Connor said there has been a line to vote nearly every day since early voting began on Sept. 24, and most days the line forms before voting starts at 9 a.m.

On Monday, 16 more early voting locations will open to Lake County voters, one more than usual. A list of sites can be found at lakecountyil.gov.

O'Connor said this time voters across the county, no matter their precinct, can vote at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake.

"It will be happening in the great hall and there will be safe distance for voters to be from each other," O'Connor said. "However people vote, we are trying to make it safe, secure, and I like to use the word 'comfortable.' We want people to vote and make them feel good about voting."

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In the midst of the pandemic, "comfortable" means voting by mail for many. O'Connor said there have been 154,190 mail-in ballots requested by Lake County voters so far. That is 31.8% of the county's 484,835 registered voters.

It's likely -- but still too early to declare -- that the county will see a significant spike in completed mail-in ballots this year. The county received a total of 32,407 ballots in the mail in 2016, including late-arriving and provisional ballots, according to O'Connor's office.

To help count this election's mail-in ballots, Lake County will receive about $187,000 in federal CARES Act grants made available through the Illinois State Board of Elections for a high-speed digital scanner and other equipment. The Lake County Board on Tuesday approved three separate resolutions accepting the grants as reimbursement.

O'Connor said the office already has a high-speed digital scanner, but the added equipment will increase efficiency.

"It's more software and it's very user-friendly for our judges when they're looking at signatures," O'Connor said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All the vote-by-mail ballots received before Election Day will be counted and put into vote totals after polls close on Nov. 3. O'Connor said any ballots dropped off in collection boxes on Nov. 3 or any ballots that arrive by mail on Nov. 3 will be counted on Nov. 4 or after.

"Everything we do involving ballots requires election judges needing to be involved, and all of them will be busy on Election Day," O'Connor said.

O'Connor said any ballot postmarked by Nov. 3 will be counted and added to the total by the time the election is made official on Nov. 17.

The clerk's office maintains early voting statistics online at lakecountyil.gov/331/Press-Power.

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