Early voting sites planned for next fall

Early voting sites planned for next fall

There's no longer a law requiring it, but Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said Friday he hopes to have early voting on the University of Illinois campus — and at other locations around the county — for next fall's general election.

In 2010, state lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, pushed through legislation requiring clerks in counties with public universities to establish campus early voting centers as a way of improving voting among college students. But several county clerks, including former Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden, spoke out against the bill because of the cost to cash-strapped county governments.

And only about 850 people voted early at the special voting center near the University of Illinois campus for the 2010 election.

No laws have been passed so far to require campus early voting next year, Hulten said.

But he would like to follow the lead of county clerks in Madison and Jackson counties who have held off-site early voting in a number of communities in the 23-day period before Election Day.

"We're planning to have it at multiple sites around the county, as well as for a couple days on campus, if we can free up the money for it," Hulten said. "This could make it easier for voters and for us. It's not good for us to have people in line waiting to vote, and it's not good for the voters who have to wait in line."

Hulten said he had met with Frerichs and discussed the idea, "and we have received nothing but the highest level of cooperation. He's been great to deal with."

Because of the combination of a presidential election year and redistricting, it's going to be a busy and expensive year for the county clerk's office.

Hulten said he has budgeted to print 150,000 primary and general election ballots, a process that will be done in-house. The clerk's budget also includes paying 1,400 to 1,500 election judges and the cost of mailing out new voter identification cards to the approximately 125,000 registered voters in the county — mainly because nearly every voter is in a new county board, legislative or congressional district.

A draft county budget for the fiscal year beginning Dec. 1 includes $103,530 more for the county clerk's office next year to cover the one-time election-related costs.

"All those expenses will come out in 2013," County Administrator Deb Busey noted. "We won't have them after this coming year."

— TOM KACICH

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Sid Saltfork wrote on September 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm

"Improving voting by college students"? They are over 18 years of age. They do live in home areas where an absentee ballot could be sent, even in their home states or Chicago. They are supposed to be adults in the eyes of the law. Why is Champaign County spending money to "improve" their voting? Why not give every Champaign County resident with a valid I.D., and voting card a dollar to vote? The political parties could go higher than a dollar due to bidding. The public might get a chance to get some of their money back that way. Maybe, it would "improve" their voting.

pattsi wrote on September 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

I have a similar concern about the cost to offer early voting, not because I do not support enabling people to vote, but the fact that doing so has no basis in fact that it does increase the number of people voting, especially students. The on-campus, early voting facility in 2010 was used primarily by faculty and staff at the university, not the students. The student turn out overall was dismally small and only a bit better during the 2008 election. Since the county budget is extremely tight, one would encourage a maximizing of the economic investment related to increasing number of voters. Maybe this is an opportunity to run a bit of an experiment in early voting approaches to learn what might maximize.