Starting Thursday, Peoria County voters who choose to have their ballot mailed to them can pop it into a new secure dropbox outside the county Election Commission office on Brandywine Drive.
Peoria County Election Commission Executive Director Tom Bride said COVID-19 contingency planning for the November election began back in April.
"A presidential election is a tremendous undertaking to begin with," Bride said. "And then doing it under these unique circumstances has really taxed us, and made us really almost rethink how we do these elections."
The dropbox option is new to Peoria County, but Bride said states that vote exclusively by mail have used them for years.
"Some of those states, 50 to 60 percent of those voters will return their ballot to a dropbox, and don't actually send it back through the mail," Bride said. "And then talking to some of those jurisdictions, I knew that it was going to be important to have that option for voters."
Bride said Peoria County expects to mail 35,000 ballots this election cycle, including 27,000 on Sept. 24, the first day election authorities can mail them out. That's far more than the 10,000 ballots Peoria County mailed in 2018.
Those who want to vote by mail must request that option by the Thursday before Election Day.
"Our recommendation is to do it a couple weeks before hand. At least a week before hand, so we can get it processed and mailed out to you," said Bride.
The dropbox will be under 24/7 surveillance.
Voters also can take advantage of expanded early voting or Election Day voting at their polling place. For those who want to vote in person on Nov. 3, Bride said to expect it to look very different.
"There's likely to be lines on Election Day. And they may look long," Bride said. "Because we did the math, because if you have 50 people and they're six feet apart, that's a football field. It'll move faster than solid, but it's still a concern."
Hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment will be available on Election Day.
Bride anticipates about 15,000 voters will cast a ballot early, and 35,000 will vote in person on Election Day.
Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman said while the county does not have a similar dropbox, all early voting and Election Day polling places will have vote-by-mail drop-off locations.
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