Suburban Cook County ‘on pace’ to shatter all previous voting records in last week of election, clerk says

Kelli Smith, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read

Suburban Cook County has sent out all of its requested mail-in ballots to voters and is on pace to shatter all previous voting records in the final week to Election Day, local election officials said Tuesday.

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough said her office has received more than 550,000 requests for mail-in ballots this election, which is five times greater the number requested in 2016.

In addition, more than 230,000 suburban Cook County voters have cast an early ballot, which compares with about 161,000 at this point in 2016, she said. That’s out of more than 1.6 million suburban voters who registered to vote, which also set a record and represents more than a 5% increase since the March primary.

“I can tell you there’s a tremendous amount of energy and excitement out there,” Yarbrough said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in the office’s election operations center in Cicero. “Voters are determined to make their vote count, they don’t mind standing in line to do so.”

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But the surge in new methods of voting and national discussions about potential voter fraud also have raised some election concerns.

The clerk’s office has been fielding concerns from voters that their ballots weren’t showing online as being received by election authorities. Ed Michalowski, chief deputy of the clerk’s office, said about 267,000 voters have been notified through the website that their ballot was received, and 60,000 more are “in queue” to be done.

If mail-in ballots continue to arrive at the office at the same rate, the office should have “well over” 350,000 pieces of mail processed by Election Day, he added, though many requests were duplicates.

“We’re processing mail at most on a day-and-a-half basis after it comes in,” Michalowski said. “Mostly a day after it comes in.”

The office also is “having huge success” with the mail-in drop boxes, Michalowski said.

“We’re processing thousands and thousands and thousands of ballots through the drop boxes,” he said.

The extra cost of the additional machines and new methods used for this election is likely more than $3 million, compared with a usual election year, which has predominantly come from state funding and the federal government’s coronavirus relief package, Michalowski added.

Addressing another concern voiced by voters, James Nally, legal counsel for the Cook County clerk’s office, said nobody should be concerned about the signature on their ballot disqualifying them. He said the rejection rate is “probably 2%,” but “a lot of those are going to end up getting validated” since voters have an opportunity to submit verification after they’ve been notified their ballot was rejected.

“We do train our judges on reviewing signatures,” Yarbrough said.

Election officials say voters who haven’t received confirmation their mail-in ballot was received and don’t feel confident it’s been received should “take it upon themselves” to cast a provisional ballot in person to ensure their vote is counted.

“Despite the tremendous challenges that COVID-19 has imposed on all of us, and I mean all of us, it’s clear to me that the voters are not going to allow this virus suppress their right to vote,” Yarbrough said.

Twitter @KelliSmithNews


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