Bloomington could have an additional place where any registered voter from McLean County can vote on Election Day, if the city and county agree.
The Bloomington Election Commission (BEC) and McLean County clerk’s office are seeking approval to make the city-owned Grossinger Motors Arena a voting center on Nov. 3.
The state is requiring election authorities to establish a voting site that's open to all voters in each jurisdiction to expand access due to concerns about the pandemic. The state also is expanding vote-by-mail access in November by requiring election offices to mail a vote-by-mail application to active registered voters.
County Clerk Kathy Michael said it makes sense for the city of Bloomington and county to share the arena so any registered voter in the county can go there.
“This was going to be so confusing for voters if they hear that they can vote at the arena and they are from Normal and they go there because they go downtown and those judges have to send them all the way back to Normal to vote or their own polling place,” Michael said.
All regular voting precincts also will be open on Election Day. The county clerk’s office manages all voting in the county outside of Bloomington, including the Town of Normal.
Michael said she wanted a venue large enough to accommodate a large turnout. She and Bloomington Election Commission Executive Director Tim Mitchell both anticipate 80% voter turnout for the general election.
“We could have had it at the Government Center, but we felt with the anticipated crowds that we need a larger area and the arena would be a perfect fit,” Michael said.
At the same time, she's not sure how many voters will use the site because they will still have access to their regular polling place, though the arena could help if voters encounter long lines where they typically cast a ballot.
“I don’t know that we would have a big turnout at the vote center, but we are mandated to have that,” Michael said.
The McLean County Board's Finance Committee is scheduled to review the proposal Wednesday.
The plan also needs formal approval by the Bloomington City Council.
Mitchell declined to comment until the plan is approved.
The voting center would be staffed by BEC and county elections staff. Michael said she’s still tabulating the cost to run the additional site, adding the county would likely provide 10 to 20 election judges and 10 voting machines at the site.
The city and county already plan to use the arena as an early voting site starting Sept. 24. The venue has largely sat empty since the pandemic forced cancellation of nearly all public events and prompted the city to cancel its contact with VenuWorks and take over management of the downtown facility.
Early voting sites also are planned for Eastland Mall starting Oct. 10 for Bloomington and McLean County voters, and from Oct. 26-30 at Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center and Watterson Towers for McLean County voters.
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