Voters in Sangamon County will be able to submit their mail-in ballots for the November election in two drop boxes instead of sending back through the postal service.
The county’s election oversight board approved the nearly $8,000 purchase from Vote Armor of the steel boxes on Tuesday night. The plan is to set them up in the next week.
One box is planned for Monroe Street at Ninth Street outside the county building in Springfield, and the other outside the Sangamon County Juvenile Center at 2201 S. Dirksen Parkway. Ballots can be dropped off 24 hours a day.
An Illinois law approved in the spring allowed for local election authorities to provide alternatives to mailing back ballots, including the secure boxes and drive-through drop-offs. The law aimed to encourage vote-by-mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Don Gray – the Sangamon County Clerk – said the main reasons for setting up the boxes are a growing interest in voting by mail and concerns about the ability of the post office to deliver the ballots on time.
“This secure, transparent and accountable drop box will be the solution for them,” he said.
The county received a copy of a letter from the U.S. Postal Service in July saying it may not be able to guarantee delivery of ballots by the deadline to be counted if they are mailed too close Election Day.
Sangamon County voters can apply for a mail-in ballot on the county’s website and track when it’s sent, received back by the county and counted.
Gray said court security will monitor the 24-hour cameras surrounding the boxes to discourage fraud.
“An important element that drove the decision making process was certainly providing for a heavy duty, secure, weather and tamper-proof box that could be monitored 24 hours a day,” Gray said.
The Sangamon County Democratic Party wanted another box to be set up on the University of Illinois Springfield campus, the State Journal-Register reported.
Gray said he worked with both the local Republican and Democratic parties to determine the final locations for the boxes. He added that anyone can submit their mail-in ballots at the early voting site that will be on campus.
Voters do not need to put a stamp on the ballots they put in the drop boxes.
Gray said more than 26,000 voters in the county have requested a mail-in ballot so far. Statewide, 1.45 million voters have requested as of Wednesday morning, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. The county will begin to send the ballots out on September 24, the first day of early voting.