Voting by mail, dropbox system proves viable for students

By Gwyn Skiles, Contributing Writer

Amidst frisbee games, spikeball championships and study sessions, a beige box displaying the words “Ballot Drop Box” rests on the Main Quad.

This dropbox is where several students will cast their mail-in vote for the 2020 General Election.

The dropbox is a way to send the ballot to be counted without using the United States Postal Service. The Champaign County Clerk launched this new dropbox system, along with seven of these boxes, for collecting mail-in ballots.

Luke O’donnell, freshman in Engineering and first-time voter, decided to submit his ballot via mail for the general election. Upon reflection, O’Donnell said that while submitting the application was straightforward, getting the ballot was confusing.

“The mail-in ballot application wasn’t really that hard to fill out,” O’Donnell said. “The problems really arose after I had applied. I didn’t even know I was getting the ballot in the mail.”

“When I walked down to pick up a package I thought I was getting a t-shirt because they hadn’t told me when my application had gone through,” O’Donell said. “If I went on the website, it would’ve told me they hadn’t even processed my application.”

While mail-in voting may be confusing for many first-time voters, Ann Prisland, the interim co-chair of the League of Women Voters Champaign County Voter Registration, expressed the benefits of mail-in voting via the dropbox system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s quite a significant number of people who have, so far, requested mail-in ballots,” Prisland said. “As the pandemic has continued, people have a lot of concern about going into an interior space where other people will be.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of U.S. citizens requesting to vote by mail is record-shattering according to CNN. In August, President Trump resented providing the USPS with the $25 billion expected to fund these mail-in voting costs.

O’Donnell said that this lack of funding is concerning and thought that the implications could affect the outcome of the general election. However, O’Donnell believed the drop boxes could be a loophole.

“I’m very happy that there is a high number of mail-in ballots because that to me says that people want to vote and also want to be safe,” O’Donnell said. “Now what is happening with the postal system, I’m very upset about. We haven’t seen it in practice, but I think (drop boxes) are a good idea because we have separate mail dedicated specifically to the election … I think it would greatly speed up the process and make sure votes come in on time.”

Blake Cedergrent, senior in Engineering, is an election judge for this upcoming election. Election judges like Cedergrent will gather the submitted ballots from the dropbox and bring them to the Champaign County Clerk’s office to be counted.

“Trained teams of community people who serve as election judges will be going to those drop boxes twice a day … and they will be removing those ballots from the drop boxes and taking them directly back to the county clerk’s office,” Prisland said. “The teams represent both political parties — Democratic and Republican.”

Cedergrent expresses the importance of voting in the upcoming general election, whether it’s by mail or not. Even more so, Cedergrent emphasizes the need to educate oneself on local candidates.

“It’s very important to be involved in this democratic process that we hold true in this country,” he said. “Not only is it important to vote, it’s important to educate the people on the candidates running. And not just the President, but all the other candidates for local government because that’s what most directly impacts us here in Champaign-Urbana.” 

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