Some warn Illinois’ mail-in ballots could mean winners unknown for weeks

ILLINOIS — Illinois’ expanded vote-by-mail opportunities, spurred on by concerns about COVID-19 exposure at the polling place, have the potential to delay results on Election Day because of protracted ballot counts in close races.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation in June that automatically sent applications for vote-by-mail to anyone who cast a ballot in 2018. The broad expansion has county clerks expecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs.

Consequently, statistician and author Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight predicted that expanded mail-in voting will result in a weeks-long process starting in October and ending later in November.

“Instead of Americans going to the polls en masse on Nov. 3, many voters will probably make their decisions and cast their ballots over the course of October,” he said. “And instead of learning who won on election night, we’ll likely have to wait days – or in some states, weeks – for full results, as the counting of mail ballots proceeds at a much slower pace than we are accustomed to.”

Illinois’ changes to voting mirror what’s available in Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Rakich said.

In Arizona, a state whose mail-in vote process has been in place for more than two decades, voters in Maricopa County didn’t know that Joe Arpaio had lost his bid for his old county sheriff’s badge until the Friday after their Tuesday primary. Repeating a similar process in Illinois’ 102 counties could add to complications, but Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said counties are advising voters to get their ballots in the mail as early as possible to ensure results come swiftly.

“Voters need to know that the prompt return of that ballot is really critical so that we can properly do the jobs of validating those ballots and having them prepared in tabulation for a result the evening of the election,” he said.

Groups opposed to broad mail-in voting point to that uncertainty.

“Imagine waking up on Wednesday, November 4, to see a headline in the Tribune that the amendment failed,” said Illinois Business Alliance President Jared Carl. “Imagine waking up on December 3 not knowing whether or not your business and your livelihood are secure.”

The Illinois Republican Party filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday, claiming the expansion of mail-in voting is a “partisan scheme” by Democrats.

The Center Square – Cole Lauterbach


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