Record number of Clark, Champaign residents cast ballots in first week of early voting

Clark County residents cast their votes at Clark State's Turner Studio Theater during the first day of early voting that started last week. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Local election officials in Clark and Champaign counties say a record number of residents have voted in or requested a ballot for this year’s general election.

More requests have been made for absentee ballots in both counties for this year’s election than during the entirety of the 2016 general election.

“In the five years that I have been here, I have not seen anything like this,” said Jason Baker, the director for the Clark County Board of Elections, referring to the increase in demand for absentee ballots.

Early voting started in Ohio last week and since then, over 20,000 absentee ballots have been mailed to voters in Clark County and a little over 5,000 in Champaign County, according to data provided by the elections boards.

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Baker added there could be multiple factors contributing to this, including the fear of long lines or wait times on election day or that people want to avoid voting in-person due to concerns related to the coronavirus.

Absentee voting is a combination of ballots received via mail or cast in-person before election day, which will be Nov. 3.

There have been 23,358 request for absentee ballots in Clark County as of Friday, said Baker. He said that has surpassed the number of request made during the entirety of the general election in 2016, which saw 23,134 of those request being made for Clark County.

In Clark County, 8,196 ballots have been received as of Monday, including 3,869 as part of in-person early voting. That number is much higher than what was reported during the same time in 2016, which saw 2,760 ballots being cast.

Clark County moved its early voting center for this year’s general election to the Turner Studio Theater at the Clark State Performing Arts Center at 300 South Fountain Ave in downtown Springfield. The reason was to allow for a one-way flow of foot traffic from the entrance to exit as well as for more voting check-in stations while maintaining social distancing.

Amber Lopez, the deputy director for the Clark County Board of Elections, said the biggest challenge being faced is the increase in volumes for early voting. Her office has hired an additional 15 part-time staff members to help out.

In Champaign County, the number of absentee ballots requested so far for this election is 6,927. The total number of requests made for absentee ballots during the same election in 2016 in the county was 6,138, said Jodi Flora, the deputy director for the Champaign County Board of Elections.

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In Champaign County, 1,730 ballots have been cast as of Monday, with about 1,200 of those being cast in-person, according to local election data. Champaign County voters cast 691 ballots total during the same time period in 2016.

Local election officials have also increased the number of people needed as poll workers for the November election. Lopez said they currently have 706 people committed to working as poll workers in Clark County. She said they need at least 456 people in that role but said they are always seeking extra people in case some poll workers are unable to report during the election.

In Champaign County, Flora said they have hired two extra people to work at their office/early voting center at 1512 S. U.S. Highway 68 in Urbana. She said that they usually have about 112 poll workers for a general election, but have increased that number to 193.

By the numbers:

8,196 - Ballots received by the Clark County Board of Elections as of Monday

1,730 - Ballots received by the Champaign County Board of Elections as of Monday

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