Faces of the election: The hometown polling place
FARMER CITY — On Tuesday, East Central Illinois voters will cast their ballots in civic centers, fire stations, churches, American Legion buildings, YMCAs, town halls ... and Randy Dean's two-car garage.
Welcome to Rutledge Township, an everybody-knows-your-name community of 177 in DeWitt County.
"It is a tradition here in Rutledge Township to vote in people's homes," Dean said. "There's not a lot of options for a polling place. There's absolutely no city limits and nowhere to hold an election but somebody's home or garage."
Dean serves as the township's highway commissioner. His garage has served as its official polling place since 2005.
It will do so again Tuesday — after a long weekend of clearing everything out.
"So there's room for the election judges' table and a place for the ballot booths," he said.
As highway commissioner, Dean pretty much knows every Rutledge resident. How many of them he'll see Tuesday is anyone's guess.
"We have approximately 115 people registered to vote in an election, but the number varies from year to year," Dean said. "Sometimes we have as many as 50 to 60 people turn out to vote. Other years, there aren't so many.
"When there is a presidential election, the numbers go up, and my garage is a busy place."
If it's anything like other years, the Rutledge garage will see its most action early Tuesday morning.
"It is generally busiest before people head off to work," Dean said.
Voters are confined to the garage. But when nature calls for the election judges, they're welcome to use the bathroom in the Deans' home — one of 64 in Rutledge Township, according to census figures.
"But you have to go up some steps to get to the restroom," he said. "So we're OK unless we have someone with a wheelchair."
After the voting closes Tuesday night, Dean will move all his personal possessions back inside the garage, and life goes on as usual.
Until November, anyway.
"Election Day is like a day-long open house," Dean said. "It is fun getting to see so many of my neighbors here a couple times a year."