KANKAKEE — The Nov. 3 national general election will be unlike any before it, according to those who coordinate and tabulate results and like everything else this year — COVID-19 is responsible.

The Kankakee County Clerk’s office will be mailing out 64,649 requests this week for mail ballots for the general election. Registered voters should receive the request form by early next week.

All voters now have another decision to make when it comes to voting this fall. Not only must they decide who they will vote for, but they also must decide how they will cast their ballot.

Dan Hendrickson, Kankakee County Clerk, said this election will challenge those who coordinate them.

“Who knows what COVID-19 may be like in 100 days,” he said late last week.

“We don’t know what this election may look like.”

So, that leads to the at-home voting option, where ballots will be returned by mail. In addition to the request form, voters will only be required to provide their own postage.

Lisa Fancher, Iroquois County clerk, said her office mailed out 17,744 ballot-request forms this week. Like Hendrickson, Fancher anticipates a large response for at-home voting ballots. She says the percentage could approach 20 percent in Iroquois County.

Regarding the possibility of voter fraud, meaning someone other than the person who requested the ballot actually filling out the ballot, Fancher said there is no way of policing that behavior, and she doesn’t believe that will be an issue.

“I don’t buy into the whole widespread voter fraud thing,” she said.

Basically, she said, people will be on a honor system.

“It’s obviously OK for someone to get help, but as long as the (at-home) ballot is signed, there is no way of knowing if someone helped or influenced the voter,” she said.

LARGE TURNOUT EXPECTED

According to a University of Virginia study, of the 332 million U.S. residents, 235 million are of voting age and are U.S. citizens, meaning 70 percent of the overall population will be eligible to vote in 2020.

The Democratic voter-targeting firm Catalist projects that some 156 million people could cast ballots in 2020, a significant increase from the 139 million total of 2016.

While it may seem impossible, early voting is now less than two months away. Early voting begins on Sept. 24 and concludes on Nov. 2, the day before the general election polling places open.

In addition to the 40 days of early voting in Kankakee County Clerk’s office in downtown Kankakee, there will be three days of early voting in Manteno and four days in Bourbonnais, Hendrickson noted.

“We want people to participate, but we want them to be safe,” said Hendrickson, regarding the health concerns. “People do not have to vote by mail, but it is the safest way.”

The clerk said that Oct. 29 will be the deadline for the return of the postcards seeking a mailed ballot. Registered voters who plan to vote in person can simply dispose of the mailed postcard seeking the at-home ballot.

Hendrickson said that in 2016, about 5 percent of the county’s voting public used the at-home ballot. Iroquois was in that same range.

Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 to be counted. With that in mind, Hendrickson said it may be impossible to declare a winner on Election Night in a tight race.

He said he hopes voters return completed at-home ballots as soon as possible, so they can be imputed into the system.

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