Hulten considers machines to ease early voting
URBANA — Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten is considering purchasing 12 new election tabulators to make early voting easier for county residents.
The equipment would cost about $85,000, he said, and would be covered by a combination of federal grant funds, credits for surplus equipment that is being returned and money saved within the clerk's office.
"We will not need any additional county board approval to move forward with this if we decide to do so. We can accommodate this within our existing budget and existing grant funds," Hulten said.
The decision to purchase the tabulators will be his, he said, although he plans to work with the county board and offer voters the chance to test the equipment this fall.
County voters are taking advantage of early voting in increasing numbers. Last November about 25 percent of the county's 78,939 votes cast their ballot before Election Day.
Last year, however, early voters were limited in where they could cast their ballots. They had to vote either at the county clerk's office at the Brookens Center in Urbana, or at the early-voting site closest to their home. Each early-voting site served no more than 10 precincts.
With the proposed system, "we would continue with the same locations we used in 2012, but any registered voter in Champaign County could vote at any one of those locations," Hulten said. "So if someone lives in Fisher but works on the University of Illinois campus, they could go vote at the Illini Union."
He said he is confident the equipment, which has been certified by both federal and state election authorities, will work and can be ready for the March 2014 primary election.
"It is the same manufacturer as the system we currently use, so they've got a track record with us. One of the reasons we're consdering this one in particular is that it's consistent with our existing software and ballots, so we wouldn't have to run two systems in parallel," Hulten said.
Champaign County's voting system will continue to use optical-scan paper ballots.
Hulten plans to use the same early-voting sites next March that were used in the November 2012 election.
"I think the number of sites we have is just enough that people have convenient options. More than seven and you wonder if it's overkill," he said. "But we'll have four in (Champaign-Urbana) — Brookens, the Illini Union, Meadowbrook Church and the Spalding Recreation Center, a nice spread across Champaign-Urbana — and our other four across the rest of the county."
Those are the Grace Church in Mahomet, Rantoul Recreation Center, St. Joseph Village Annex and Tolono Public Library.
A demonstration unit of the tabulator being considered for use in Champaign County is "going on the road," for voters to use and test.
The schedule of events is:
— 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 16, Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St., U.
— 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 17, Tolono Public Library, 111 E. Main St., Tolono
— 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 22, Champaign Public Library-Douglass Branch, 504 E. Grove St., C.
— 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Oct. 22, St. Joseph Village meeting, 207 E. Lincoln, St. Joseph
— 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 23, Champaign Public Library-Main, 200 W. Green St., C.
— 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12, Rantoul Village meeting, 333 S. Tanner St., Rantoul
— 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.. Nov. 26, Mahomet Village meeting, 503 E. Main St., Mahomet.