Randolph County could be looking at record voter turnout for the 2020 presidential election, based on long lines in some precincts Tuesday and by unprecedented numbers of early voting and mail-in ballots cast.
The Herald Tribune's deadline for Wednesday's paper came too early to get election results into this edition. However, visit randolphcountyheraldtribune.com on Wednesday to get the latest results from Tuesday night.
County Clerk Melanie Johnson said Tuesday she thinks a record-breaking election is "entirely possible."
"We're seeing lots of first-time voters," she said. Also, the clerk's office was taking a lot of calls from people who have been registered for years but haven't voted in a while, wondering if they were still registered.
By noon on Tuesday, Randolph County had:
• 4,675 votes cast already by early voters and mail-in ballots.
• Slightly more than 1,900 in-person early voters.
• Processed more than 2,700 mail-in ballots, of the roughly 3,100 ballots that had been requested. Already several weeks ago, Randolph County had doubled the 2016 by-mail numbers.
Johnson said as of midday on Tuesday, only 352 mail-in ballots were not accounted for.
Meanwhile, some precincts on Tuesday were processing as many as 100 voters an hour, Johnson said.
Johnson said all the ballots in their possession will be counted and reported out by the end of Tuesday night.
However, under Illinois law counties must accept mail-in ballots up to two weeks after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked no later than Nov. 3. This is nothing new -- Illinois has long accepted mail-in ballots for two weeks after an election.
What's different this year, is how much those mail-in ballots could change the course of a race.
Whether those ballots could affect local races in 2020 will depend on the size of the margin between the vote leader and his or her closest challenger. If that gap is bigger than the number of outstanding mail-in ballots, a race can be called.
Meanwhile, it's an interesting time to be a county clerk, running one of the hottest elections in our lifetimes.
"It hasn't been dull, no doubt about that," Johnson said. She said her staffers started doing curbside voting on Saturday for voters who are quarantined due to COVID-19. One of her staffers, who recently came off quarantine herself, is handing ballots to voters in their cars in the courthouse parking lot, and then retrieving them and putting them with the other early votes.
All the votes cast are considered "unofficial" until they have been officially canvassed two weeks after the election.