No, Fayette County residents do not have to vote by mail at the general election.
A letter sent by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has many Illinoisans believing that they have to cast their ballots by mail in November.
Voting by mail is only an option, according to Fayette County Clerk and Recorder Jessica Barker, the county’s election official.
“This process is no different than any other election,” Barker said.
Registered voters may vote by mail, use the option of early voting (which begins on Thursday) or vote in person, she said.
A letter that White’s office sent to all registered voters in Illinois states, “Your local election authority had indicated that you have not yet applied for a ballot; however, you still have time to submit an application for a vote by mail ballot.
“Please contact your local election official listed in the upper right hand corner of this letter to complete an application, return an application or to receive additional information about vote by mail,” the letter states.
After residents began receiving those letters from White’s office, Barker’s office began getting “gobs and gobs of calls” from people believing that they are required to vote by mail.
Barker said that as required by state law, her office mailed out vote-by-mail applications to all voters who had requested them.
She said that because the number of applications requested was only slightly less than the total number of registered voters in the county, her office sent the applications to all registered voters, so all would have the opportunity to vote by mail if they wanted to take advantage of that option.
She also noted that her office is using a ballot tracker for all votes cast by mail.
With that system, after her office has received a mail-in ballot, her office will be able to notify the voter it has been received.
Those registered voters who wish to cast their ballots prior to election day can do so through the early voting option, which begins Thursday morning.
Voting can be done during the courthouse’s regular business hours, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Barker said that as of Oct. 13, her office is also offering additional hours for voting, until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1-4 p.m. on Sundays.
Also, she said, a drop box will be placed outside the sheriff’s office for those who wish to drop off their ballots instead of mailing them.
That box will be checked at 4 p.m. each day and until 7 p.m. on election day, Barker said.
Barker also said that her office has secured equipment to ensure that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the election judges and voters are safe.
She said that equipment was purchased with federal grant funds the county received for actions taken by county officers as a result of the pandemic.
“I have purchased face shields for anyone wanting to use them, not just judges, but anyone who wants to use them,” she said.
Her office has also purchased enough pens with styluses on them so that every voter will receive one. Voters will keep those pens instead of turning them in after either casting a regular ballot or using a touch-screen voting machine, Barker said.
Also, Barker said, her office received from Anheuser-Busch hand sanitizer and 4,500 masks that can be used for election purposes.