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Local News

Will County Clerk works to expand voting access ahead of 2020 election

Staley Ferry touts new early voting sites throughout Will County

The Will County Clerk’s Office has been gearing up for next year’s elections in which voters will decide on their local, state and federal representatives.

When she ran for the office, County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry said she would work to expand voting services for residents in underserved areas, including Joliet and the east end of the county.

Staley Ferry’s office has worked to establish or extend early voting opportunities for residents in locations around the county, such as near the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, the Prairie Activity & Recreation Center in Plainfield and Governors State University in University Park.

The clerk’s office estimated that there are now about 25 early voting sites in Will County.

“It’s a commitment to doing this,” said Charles B. Pelkie, Staley Ferry’s chief of staff. “Lauren recognizes that and is grateful when we’re able to create these kind of partnerships to give people access to the vote.”

During her first year in office, Staley Ferry has also talked about making electoral processes more efficient.

After the local consolidated election in April, the first election she oversaw as clerk, Staley Ferry submitted a report to Will County Board members analyzing the work by her department. In a letter to board members, she said she did “not shy away from detailing bumps in the road that we hit along the way” in her analysis.

Among those “bumps” were concerns over the cost of printing ballots and other election materials. The clerk’s office is legally required to print 10% more ballots in each precinct than there are registered voters.

Although Pelkie said Staley Ferry’s office understands the requirement is there to ensure each precinct doesn’t run out of ballots on Election Day, Staley Ferry’s report said this led to “tremendous waste” during the April election in which about 13% of registered voters turned out. The cost of printing those ballots was about $120,000.

Staley Ferry said she expects turnout to be much higher for 2020, a presidential election year. In 2016, about 45% of registered voters turned out for the primary election and about 75% of registered voters turned out for the general election.

In her report on April’s election, Staley Ferry said she would like to work with state legislators to manage such costs without jeopardizing voter access to ballots. But, she conceded, she hadn’t taken any official actions yet.

“We haven’t had any formal conversations with anybody yet, but it’s certainly on our radar,” Staley Ferry said.

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