McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael said she's “cautiously optimistic” voters won't encounter long lines at Illinois State University next year as the county plans to add a second polling site on campus.
The county's proposed budget includes funding for a polling site at Watterson Towers, in addition to the Brown Ballroom at Bone Student Center. Michael said she initially wanted more polling sites at ISU in her $1.4 million request for elections.
“We actually couldn’t go with the highest (request), because we couldn’t secure other Election Day sites on campus,” Michael said. “That would have added an even much greater cost.”
Michael said other sites on campus weren’t available because of construction or other logistical issues.
The County Administrator and Michael pared down the request to $1.18 million. That would be a 27% increase over the last presidential election cycle, when voters complained of long lines and wait times.
Michael pointed out that was the first year for same-day voter registration in Illinois, which she said contributed to the delays.
“It takes five minutes if you are registered to vote to move on and get checked in, but it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to do (same-day) registration if they wait until the elections,” Michael said.
Michael said the budget request includes 300 new iPads to replace old laptops for election judges. She said that will also speed up voting.
Part of the election funding will also go toward marketing efforts to encourage early voting and registration, especially on the ISU campus.
“If (ISU), along with our office, can help get that word out everywhere, there should not be any wait lines, but we just don’t know if this is going to be a record breaker (for turnout) or not,” Michael said.
Michael previously suggested the county could see voter turnout of up to 80% in the primary and general elections next year. County Board member Carlo Robustelli, D-Bloomington, questioned how the three-term Republican clerk came to that conclusion during a finance committee meeting in August.
The funding will also allow for the county clerk’s office to hire an additional 30 to 40 election judges, including 20 for the new polling site at Watterson.
The county plans use both ISU polling sites for early voting as well, along with the McLean County Government Center and Eastland Mall.
Michael previously suggested the county could see voter turnout of up to 80% in the primary and general elections next year.
The county clerk’s office oversees all voting in McLean County outside of Bloomington.
The County Board’s oversight committees are reviewing the $102.8 million budget that County Administrator Camille Rodriguez proposed on Tuesday. The board is expected to vote on the budget in November.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in Central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.