Illinois’ primary went forward on St. Patrick’s Day, even as the state began to crack down on public gatherings amid fears of the coronavirus.
Legislators on Thursday swiftly moved to approve new voting procedures – which will be in place only for the 2020 election – in hopes of avoiding a repeat in November.
While there still will be in-person voting options, the package (Senate Bill 1863) aims to get as many voters as possible to cast their ballots, period. And hopefully, they’ll do so by mail.
Reform groups are disappointed, however, that Illinois is not going all the way by mailing ballots to every registered voter.
Instead, Illinois will send several reminders and applications for mail-in ballots to voters (“chasing” them) who have participated in the past few election cycles.
The measure permits 16-year-olds to serve as election judges, and makes election day – Nov. 3 – a holiday for schools, a move which will free up school buildings to be used as polling places on election day without fear of exposing students to COVID-19 germs.
Republicans oppose the plan: They’re wary of the large role Secretary of State Jesse White’s office will play given in problems the office has had with rolling out automatic voter registration (AVR). They also say the measure lacks provisions to prevent potential ballot stuffing.
It’s expected the program will cost $2.9 million, but sponsors of the plan say they expect federal reimbursement for those costs.
However, President Donald Trump has been critical of vote-by-mail programs, even threatening to withhold funding from states that aggressively pursue that route.
Gov. J.B. Pritkzer on Thursday said he’s not worried about that, and though he would have favored sending voters ballots, the proposal is a good compromise.
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