Looking ahead: Here’s how you can vote

By Amber Koteras, Staff Reporter

*Originally published in print Sept. 2 2020.

The November general election is coming up soon, and the deadlines to register to vote even sooner. 

John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, stressed the importance of voting in this particular election. 

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“I think you could make a case that this is an amazingly important election; you know we’re in the midst of this horrific pandemic, the economy is in bad shape, there’s racial tensions across the country, people are frightened and uncertain,” Shaw said.

With the election taking place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to know your options for casting a ballot. 

“This is a critical time to choose leaders and people are going to have to make judgements about what kind of leadership they want going forward,” Shaw said.

According to Frank Byrd, Jackson County Clerk and Recorder, there will be many in-person voting options available as well as mail-in ballots and absentee voting. 

In terms of in-person voting, Byrd mentioned early voting at SIU and Carbondale Civic Center. Some dates for early voting include Oct. 13 through Oct. 16, as well as Oct. 19 and 20. 

“I want to stress that every traditional place that we have ever had, all 56 polling places, will be open,” Byrd said.

Curbside voting will also be held in the lobby of the Jackson County Courthouse on Election Day. 

Curbside voting is an inclusive form of voting that allows people who are handicapped, unable to access their polling place, those who do not understand how to vote and others who might not want to come into the building to vote just the same as others. 

The lobby of the courthouse will be a center filled with tables. Each table will correspond to a voting option. 

There will be a table for curbside voting, for grace-period voting — where one can register to vote and vote all in one day — and there will be a table for what is called a “voting center.”

Byrd strongly emphasized the significance of this voting center. The premise of the center would be to save a trip for people during the pandemic. Anyone can come vote at the voting center rather than going to their typical polling station.  

Those utilizing the voting center will need to have their judge called and the citizen’s name will be taken off the rosters at their specified poll.

Another new development includes a ballot retrieval box. 

Comparing it to a FedEx mailbox, Byrd said that it is a mailbox mounted to the concrete at the Courthouse. This option allows use of mail-in ballots without having to actually send anything in the mail. Those ballots will be collected once a day, and there will be 24-hour video surveillance of the box. 

There have been some concerns when it comes to the security of mail-in ballots. 

Citizens around the nation are concerned about the security of the method, as well as the potential harm to the USPS because of it, but Byrd noted that mail-in ballots have been around for a long time and ensured that they are secure.

“Mail-in ballots are very secure and they have been around for a long time,” Byrd said. “We’re seeing a significant increase because of the pandemic and a lot of attention is drawn to that.”

Through all voting, precautions will be taken to ensure everyone’s health and safety. There will be masks made available to both the voters and to the workers. Face shields, sanitizer, and gloves will be provided as well to the workers. 

“I have everything available to offset any kind of situation,” Byrd said. 

Beyond any controversy or complications, there is general anticipation for the election, occurring on Nov. 3,  among the public. 

“I’m excited about this, I think this is going to be a really good election and I think I’ve covered all my bases,” Byrd said. “I’ve worked really, really hard to make sure that everything and everybody is safe so they can vote, and their vote counts.”

Staff reporter Amber Koteras can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AmberKoteras

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