ILLINOIS, USA — As concerns about COVID-19 grow across the country, new guidelines and restrictions on gatherings continue to come down, the health and safety of voters and poll workers are under consideration.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recommended that the state delay in-person voting for Tuesday's Ohio Primary until June 2 and will file a lawsuit in an effort to make it happen. Illinois, which also is scheduled to head to the polls Tuesday, said its primary is scheduled to go on as planned.
"We have worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health to make sure local election authorities have proper guidance for coronavirus safety in their polling places," Illinois Public Information Officer Matt Dietrich said in a statement.
The release said a number of factors played into the decision to continue with the primary. More than 500,000 people have already cast early votes and nearly 300,000 people have voted by mail. Those numbers are up significantly from the 2016 primary, the release said.
Additionally, leaders are unsure when they would be able to hold an election in the future that would give voters any greater safety or certainty.
And it is not as simple as making an announcement, the release said.
"To be clear, the State Board of Elections does not have the authority to change an election date," Dietrich said. "Doing so would require action by the General Assembly to amend the Illinois Election Code or a court order. We have no intention of seeking such an order nor has any other state official indicated that intent."
The impact of the coronavirus on staffing of the polls has been unprecedented, the St. Clair County clerk said.
"It's been a Herculanean challenge, but we're getting through it the best we can,” clerk Thomas Holbrook said.
Holbrook said half of the nearly 1,000 election judges his county needs to oversee polling places and certify votes canceled because of the coronavirus.
"They're elderly folk. They're concerned for their health, and I'm concerned for their health. I want them back next election,” he said.
Holbrook said he's been working to back-fill the positions, and precincts will be staffed Tuesday — maybe not fully, but functionally.
The announcement came just hours before Governor J.B. Pritzker's order closing all dine-in options at the state's restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars will still be allowed to stay open to operate curbside pickup orders, and Dietrich said voting involves a similar amount of contact.
"With Gov. Pritzker having ordered the closure of restaurants in Illinois as of tonight except for carryout service, we want to point out that in-person voting is a comparable transaction to picking up a takeout restaurant order or shopping at a grocery store," he said in the message. "There is no need for close contact when requesting a ballot from an election judge and Illinois does not require voters to show ID; a voter’s signature compared to the signature on record is proof of identity. Primary voting typically is a swift transaction that can be done at a safe distance from other voters."
The message about the primary continuing was sent at 3 p.m., less than an hour after President Donald Trump and health experts changed guidelines to suggest people avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
With people possibly heading to the polls, Illinois officials have released the following information and guidelines for voters to know:
Illinois has seen hundreds of polling place location changes in the past week and we have made every effort to keep our online polling place lookup database current so voters can find accurate information on where to vote.
Your Safety is Our Priority
With the on‐going coronavirus pandemic, Illinois polling places want to ensure that you have a safe environment to vote in.
What is being done?
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces (tables, doorknobs, toilets, sinks)
- Disinfecting surfaces with EPA registered cleaners
- Cleaning and disinfecting voting electronics (voting machines, laptops, tablets, pens, keyboards)
- Ensuring that the bathrooms have adequate amounts of soap, water and drying materials for proper and washing
- Providing alcohol‐based hand sanitizer
What Can You Do?
Clean your hands often
- Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap is not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Avoid close contact
- Leave some distance between you and the person in front of you in line if COVID‐spreading in your community.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- If you cough or sneeze, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Wear a face mask if you are sick
- If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people.
- If you are sick and cannot wear a facemask, please do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes.