© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Our regular donation form is broken! But you can still give online, by phone, or mail. Here's how.

McLean County Election Managers: Vote-By-Mail Letter Causes Confusion, Anger

Illinois Secretary of State's Office letter
Eric Stock
The Illinois Secretary of State's Office sent letters this week to registered voters who had not yet applied for a mail-in ballot.

McLean County election authorities are re-assuring voters they don't have to vote by mail this election.
Some voters have received a letter from the Illinois Secretary of State's Office informing them they haven't applied for a vote-by-mail ballot.

Tim Mitchell standing next to American flag
Credit Tim Mitchell
Tim Mitchell, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission, said his office has been consumed with calls from voters about the recent Illinois Secretary of State's Office mailing.

“It’s consumed staff time for the last day and a half,” said Tim Mitchell, executive director of the Bloomington Election Commission (BEC).

On Sep. 15, the secretary of state’s office sent letters to registered voters who hadn’t requested a mail-in ballot.

“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,” the letter states. “Please contact your local election official listed in the upper right hand coroner of this letter to complete an application, return an application or to receive additional information about vote by mail.”

McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael, who oversees elections in the county outside of Bloomington, said some think the letter makes vote-by-mail sound mandatory, others are annoyed because they plan to vote in person.

Kathy Michael speaks
Credit Jeff Smudde / WGLT
McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael said the state should have consulted with local election authorities before mailing the letter to voters.

“To me there wasn’t much thought into drafting that letter,” Michael said. “It made it look like our office gave them the information to stay after these people to vote by mail and that’s not the case.”

Henry Haupt, a spokesperson for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, said the letters and the wording were approved by lawmakers.

“We used the language in the state statute for the Sept. 15 letter,” Haupt said in an email. “As required by state law, there will be a follow-up letter in mid-October.”

Haupt said the Secretary of State’s office received the list of voters who hadn’t signed up for vote-by-mail from the Illinois State Board of Elections that obtained its list of names from county and local election authorities.

Both Mitchell and Michael said they heard from voters who had requested a mail-in ballot.

Mitchell said based on previous correspondence from the Illinois State Board of Elections, it appears the agency shared with the Secretary of State’s office lists of registered voters from Sept. 1, meaning voters who requested a ballot in the last two weeks wouldn’t appear on the list.

Mitchell said he hopes it doesn’t cause voters to raise concerns about whether their applications have been processed through the mail, especially on the verge of an election where faith in postal delivery is crucial.

“I don’t think it helps,” Mitchell said.

VBM participation

Nearly 24,000 McLean County voters have applied for a vote-by-mail ballot for the upcoming election.

Mitchell said the BEC has received more than 12,300 applications as of Friday afternoon. He said he believes that number could go much higher as many people wait to see how safe it will be to go outside as election day approaches.

“If we saw the COVID rate skyrocket in McLean County for a while, if something like that were to continue to happen and more people saw that (they would say), ‘No I’m going to send in my vote-by-mail application,’” Mitchell said.

The McLean County Clerk's office has received about 11,400 applications.

Mail-in ballots will be mailed starting Sept. 24. That's also when early voting begins.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 29.

Ballot drop boxes

Voters will have more than a dozen places throughout McLean County to drop off their mail-in ballots starting Sept. 28,

Michael said voters can trust the ballot drop-boxes are secure.

“They are all going to be inside a building, like a city hall, a library,” Michael said. “Every day, we are going to send election judges out to check and pick up the ballots and return them in a secure case. No ballots will be left at a location overnight.”

Drop box locations include:
* Bloomington Election Commission; 115 E. Washington St., Room 403; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
* Bloomington, Grossinger Motors Arena; 101 S. Madison St.; Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.;
* McLean County Clerk’s Office; 115 E. Washington St., Room 102; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Chenoa, city hall; 201 Green St.; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Colfax; village office; 307 N. Harrison St.; Monday-Friday, 8:30-11:30 a.m., 12:30-5 p.m.
Down; village hall; 211S. Seminary St.; Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-noon
Heyworth; village hall, 108 S. Buchanan St.; Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-noon, and 12:30-4 p.m.
LeRoy; city hall; 207 S. East St.; Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lexington; public library; 207 S. Cedar St.; Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Normal; police department; 100 Phoenix Ave.; Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
Towanda, village office; 103 S. Jefferson St.; Monday-Friday 9 a.m. -noon.
*Early voting sites 

Early voting sites, starting Sept. 24, will be at Eastland Mall in Bloomington and Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center and Watterson Towers. Ballot drop boxes also will be at all early voting sites. 

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.