CHICAGO (CBS) — In-person early voting is now underway across most of Illinois, although it doesn’t start in Chicago or suburban Cook County until next month.
Like everything else right now, voting looks a little different in a pandemic.
In DuPage County, the DuPage Fairgrounds in Wheaton will be the first and only polling place for in-person early voting until next month. Its size made it the safest place to hold early voting in our new world of voting in a pandemic.
Before the doors even opened, as the line snaked around the building, early voters were reminded why they’re here
“You see what’s happening right here? This is just a little satellite. It’s gonna be like this all over the country,” early voter Ray Rosato said.
Fellow early voter Denzel Bibbs said he didn’t want to vote by mail this year, because of delays at the U.S. Postal Service.
To keep early voters and poll workers safe in DuPage County, $3.5 million in state and federal funds have been used to buy things like face shields, hand sanitizer, and masks
Polling stations are six feet apart, with floor markers to remind voters to keep their distance.
Dupage County and several other counties in the state have doubled election judges’ pay. Early voting judges will now get $20 an hour in DuPage County; something that really helped judges who were on the fence about whether the risk was worth it this year.
“I felt that it was really important. We need to have election judges just to make our elections work well, and I weighed the two things,” election judge Melissa Nachman said.
A drop box will be near the door for those turning in mail ballots.
Dupage County has received 155,000 mail-in ballot applications so far.
Statewide, there have been 1.82 million applications to vote by mail.
“That is an incredible number. The most we’ve ever had cast in vote by mail was just two years ago; 430,000 voters voted by mail,” Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said.
For some, the stakes are too high this year to not see your vote get counted in person.
“I’m in line because of these grandbabies. I’m concerned for their future. I’m concerned about democracy. I’m concerned around voter suppression,” Raynard Johnson said. “It’s really important that that I be here and that they get an opportunity to live this country as I’ve lived here.”
The Illinois State Board of Elections said half of all presidential votes could be cast before Election Day.
In Chicago, early voting begins Oct. 1. In suburban Cook County, early voting starts Oct. 19.