By-mail voters face unprecedented challenges

Signs+direct+voters+where+to+go+at+the+Champaign+County+Clerks+Office+on+Sept.+24.

Ryan Ash

Signs direct voters where to go at the Champaign County Clerk’s Office on Sept. 24.

By Jade Roberts, Social Media Director

Many election officials have urged voters to vote by mail, including the Champaign County Clerk’s Office. Ballots could be requested up until last Thursday, Oct. 29. However, many voters who have requested an absentee ballot have yet to obtain one. 

This was the case for senior in LAS, Fatima Castillo, who requested her ballot on Sept. 20 and has still not received it.

“The excuse that I was given was that the U.S. Postal Service marked my address as being undeliverable even though all of my information was correct,” Castillo said.

She feels that her ballot not being received was deliberate.

“I have been able to send packages to my apartment with the same information that I provided with no issues, so that excuse feels sketchy.”

This is of concern for voters who are currently quarantined. Recently, Champaign County and the University have seen a spike in cases, just as the early voting, grace period voting and mail-in ballot requests were coming to an end.

Even worse is that as of Oct. 28, the University was awaiting a decision from the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) who in turn were awaiting the Illinois Department of Public Health’s decision on how voting should work for quarantined folks. Vague answers were eventually given for what to do if put in the tricky situation of having not voted while in quarantined, which must last 14 days post-exposure. 

According to University spokesperson Robin Kaler, “If someone in quarantine has not done early voting or mail-in voting, then they can call the CUPHD hotline to get specific instructions on safety measures to be taken when going to vote.” 

Some voters may unfortunately be disenfranchised due to COVID-19 and ill-timed guidance. Though some are afraid of fraud in this election, with mail-in votes, the worse enemy seems to be the pandemic and unclear or delayed direction. 

Castillo said she got a lot of guidance from social media and the internet rather than from government or University officials. To vote, she had to wait in line to fill out an affidavit, which voids the mail-in ballot should it ever be received. 

For voters who have their ballot and are voting by mail, these ballots are tracked. Voters can check their voter portal to see when the ballot is on its way and when the Clerk’s office has acquired the ballot. “It is a specific and rigid system. Anticipate at least 48 hours before the status of your ballot is updated in the voter portal,” the County Clerk’s office said on the Champaign County Clerk’s website.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and sent to the County Clerk’s Office or can be dropped off in a dropbox until 7 p.m. These ballots must first be processed and accepted by the County Clerk’s office before they are counted, so don’t be alarmed if your voter portal says your ballot has yet to be received. Ballots by-mail will be counted if received within 14 days of the general election.

For voters facing the same ordeal as Castillo, she advises them to “go to the polls and register to vote in Champaign. If that doesn’t work, demand a provisional ballot.” On Nov. 3, polling locations open at 6 a.m. and go until 7 p.m. To stay safe, social distance by standing on the marked stickers on the floor, use hand sanitizer and most importantly, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose. 

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