Traditionally early voting has taken place inside the local board of elections office on East Main Street. However, due to space concerns, it will now take place at the Turner Studio Theatre at the Clark State Performing Arts Center, located at 300 South Fountain Avenue.
The decision was sparked by concerns that social distancing measures would lead to even longer wait times as well as less voting stations being set up at the board of elections office, said Clark County Board of Elections Director Jason Baker.
Baker added that they expect an uptick for in-person early voting as the election in November will be a presidential one and will be held amid a global pandemic.
“We couldn’t process as many voters and we thought it would be a good idea to find a new location. We checked a few locations downtown that would allow for more voters given the expected higher turnout,” he said.
There has also been a higher demand for absentee mail-in ballots for the upcoming election. Local election officials said they have processed about 5,000 applications for those ballots so far.
This year’s general election will be held on Nov. 3., and absentee voting by mail as well as early in-person voting are both scheduled to begin on Oct. 6. That date is also when absentee ballots are scheduled to start being mailed to voters.
Additional staff have already been called in for this election. Baker said they brought in their seasonal workers about five weeks earlier than normal due to the expected increase in absentee voting.
In addition, the Clark County Board of Elections is preparing for a greater need for poll workers. Baker said they typically have 360 of those workers for the general election. But, now his office is trying to get around 500, including people to greet and check in voters, man polling locations and clean off equipment.
In terms of early voting, Baker said if early in-person voting were to remain at the board of elections office, voting check-in stations would have to be cut back to three. That would lead to longer wait times.
His office had wait times of about three hours for in-person early voting in the weekend proceeding the presidential election in 2016. Clark County saw a little over 12,000 people cast an early vote in-person for that election.
Baker said the new location for in-person early voting will allow for eight voter check-in stations, provide more room for both voters and staff members as well as allow one-way flow of foot traffic from entrance to exit.
Local election officials started looking for a suitable alternative in June and identified the theater as a possible location in July.
After completing an assessment to determine if that location would meet the requirements of the American’s With Disabilities Act for polling locations, the local board of elections entered into a partnership with the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
Voter registration tables will be set up in the lobby and voting booths will be located inside the theater, said Laurie Means, the executive director for Marketing for Clark State Community College. The Turner Studio Theatre is located inside the Clark State Performing Arts Center.
Baker said that two polling stations in the county will also be moved for election night on Nov. 3. Voting will no longer take place at the Tremont city municipal building, but instead it will be moved to the Lawrenceville Church of God at 3131 Fox Hollow Road.
The reason for the change is that the hallway to get to the voting room inside the Tremont City Municipal Building is to narrow and does not allow for proper social distancing, Baker said.
Voting will also no longer take place at the Pitchin Fire House on Selma Road. Instead it will take place at the Locust Hills Golf Club at 5575 N. River Road. That decision will be for this election only, Baker added.
He said that social distancing should not be an issue at the other 47 polling locations in the county.
Meredith Bodey, the director of the Champaign County Board of Elections, said early in-person voting will remain at their office at 1512 S. U.S. Highway 68, Urbana. She said they do not plan on moving any polling locations for election day.
Early voting will start on Oct. 6 and will take place in Clark County at the Turner Studio Theatre at the Clark State Performing Arts Center
The early voting schedule is as follows:
Oct. 6-9: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 12-16: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 19-23: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Oct. 24: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Oct. 25: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 26-30: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Oct. 31: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Nov. 1: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Nov. 2: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.