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Spend every dollar available to ensure safe and secure elections in Illinois this fall

The Illinois State Board of Elections has distributed millions of dollars in response to grant requests to ensure dependable elections, but some funds remain unspent.

Voters cast ballots in the general election, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, at the Office of Elections satellite location in Spotsylvania, Va., on the first day of the state’s 45-day early voting period
Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star via AP

Illinois election officials must take advantage of every dollar available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the upcoming vote goes as well as possible.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week sent a letter urging the Illinois State Board of Elections to distribute at least $4 million in federal aid to pay for additional secure mail-in ballot drop boxes and to recruit more election judges.

Secure drop boxes are needed for voters who get their ballots by mail but who worry the U.S. Postal Service won’t deliver them on time to be counted.

Pritzker frets that in a state with 102 counties, only 54 election authorities have requested money for secure drop boxes, which require time to order and install. He’s also concerned about recruiting enough election judges because many older people who traditionally served as judges may be afraid to expose themselves to COVID-19.

Not everyone is on board with Pritzker’s request. A lobbyist for the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders reportedly said the organization’s members oppose spending the $4 million the way Pritzker wants. ISBE will take up the issue at its board meeting on Monday morning amid reported complaints in some quarters that it has been sitting on federal money that should be channeled to local election authorities.

Around the state, election authorities have been scrambling to hire staff, install secure drop boxes, recruit election judges and move polling places to areas such as school gyms where voters can keep a safe distance apart. ISBE has distributed millions of dollars in response to grant requests to pay for those efforts, but some additional money remains unspent.

Local election authorities should be identifying whatever they still need to ensure a safe, secure and seamless election. Then, they should hustle their grant requests while there is still time to spend the money before voting starts.

Last week, on the first day of early voting in Virginia, some voters had to stand in line for up to four hours. We don’t want to see that scene replayed all across Illinois.

Throughout Illinois, election authorities will begin sending out mail-in ballots starting Thursday.

Once the Nov. 3 election is over, we might find Illinois actually did more than was necessary to ensure that no one was disenfranchised.

But that sure beats doing too little.

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