Breaking It Down: Local clerks discuss mail-in voting

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 6:35 PM CDT
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WINNEBAGO, BOONE AND OGLE COUNTIES, Ill. (WIFR) - “Any election official you talk to is going to be very strong that we are here to protect the vote, period. I don’t care what they do in Iowa or Wisconsin or New York. We’re here and we’re going to protect the vote,” said Ogle County Clerk Laura Cook.

Less than two months remain until Election Day and with the first round of ballots heading to households on September 24, questions loom over the security of mail-in voting.

“This is the first time that many of us have had to endure a pandemic. So, every process, every procedure has had to have been re-evaluated. How are we going to make sure that we keep the voters safe, the election staff safe and the election judges?” said Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow.

While this election cycle may be some people’s first exposure to mail-in voting, Boone County Clerk Julie Stapler says it’s been around for a while, now, it’s just growing in capacity and need.

“A lot of people are confused by absentee ballots and mail ballots, they are the same thing. Years ago, it was called absentee ballots and they would have to give a reason why they were requesting a vote by mail ballot. Now, they don’t have to have a reason; they can just do that,” said Stapler.

Ogle County Clerk Laura Cook and her team have been hard at work, organizing its collection system, making sure every ballot is accurately counted.

“If people want to trust us as election officials, we just have to let them know very strongly that we are there to protect their vote. We are doing everything they’ve asked us to do and even more to protect the vote because we don’t want the voter fraud,” said Cook.

“A lot of times people hear that it’s a fraudulent activity and it really is not. It’s really just a matter of us in our procedures. We’re trying, in every way, shape and form to make sure that everybody’s ballot is counted. And we’re wanting to really make sure though that it’s exactly who requested and who voted that ballot is the same person,” said Stapler.

Winnebago County Clerk Lori Gummow says the next few weeks of preparation are crucial for this election and beyond.

“So many things have changed. And again, it’s because of the virus, it’s because of social unrest. People are nervous because they don’t know what to expect. And I wish I had a crystal ball, so I knew what November 3 looked like. But we’re trying to plan for every single foreseeable circumstance so we can prepare for it,” said Gummow.

“We do vote and we do vote for who we want to and the sanctity of our vote needs to be counted and the election officials who are in place, and the county clerks who are here working their jobs to make sure everybody counts. We know how important that is and that’s what we’re trying to do is eliminate that fear, let people know that we’re here to answer their questions are we’re doing everything we can to make sure that their vote is going to be counted,” said Stapler.

If you plan to vote by mail, the clerks recommend you take advantage of each county’s tracking system, which allows you to follow your ballot until it reaches their desk.

Information for Winnebago, Boone and Ogle Counties can be found on the Clerks’ websites.

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