Several Illinois counties have said they plan on placing postage-free drop boxes for people to submit their mail-in ballots ahead of the upcoming November election, a method seen by some as an option to bypass the Postal Service.
Cook County announced it will have more than 50 drop boxes available at voting sites in multiple suburbs.
"Mail ballots will be collected on a daily basis and will be time stamped," the clerk's office said in a release. "Voters who applied for their mail ballot online will receive an email at the time their mail ballot is sent to them, as well as an email notifying them when the completed ballot has been received back from the voter."
The drop boxes are expected to be available beginning Oct. 9 at a site in Chicago, located at 69 W. Washington St., and at five suburban courthouses, including those in Rolling Meadows, Skokie, Maywood, Bridgeview and Markham.
The remaining drop boxes will open at early voting sites beginning Oct.19, the clerk's office said. The Chicago Board of Elections said boxes will be available at all 50 early voting sites in each ward across the city, and election officials are exploring options to add more. (Full list of suburban locations at the end of this article)
Elsewhere, in McHenry County, officials said a secure drop box will be located at 667 Ware Rd. in Woodstock.
In Lake County, officials said they plan to offer such drop boxes but "are still working out the details."
Such boxes have been used with success for several years in states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado that rely largely or entirely on ballots that must be sent in. But their use is being expanded because of the coronavirus outbreak and, more recently, concerns about the post office’s ability to do its job.
State or local authorities in places such as Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are pressing for more boxes or drop-off sites that would enable ballots to reach election officials without going through the mail.
In the potential battleground state of Wisconsin, the five biggest cities won a $6.3 million grant from the nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life to help administer the November election, including installation of drop boxes. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said his city will use some of its $2.1 million share to buy more than a dozen to install at libraries and other locations.
Last week, the Postal Service, having cut overtime and late deliveries, began warning states that it can’t guarantee all mail ballots will be received in time to be counted. President Donald Trump last week admitted blocking Postal Service funding so it would be harder to process the expected surge of millions of ballots.
Facing mounting public pressure and a crush of state lawsuits, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday he is halting some operational changes to mail delivery that critics blamed for widespread delays and warned could disrupt the November election.
DeJoy said he would “suspend” several of his initiatives — including the removal of the distinctive blue mailboxes that prompted an outcry — until after the election “to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail.”
The abrupt reversal from DeJoy came as more than 20 states, including Illinois, announced they would be suing to stop the changes. Several vowed they would press on, keeping a watchful eye on the Postal Service ahead of the election.
Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said concerns over post office delays are a big factor in communities looking to install drop boxes for the November election.
“It’s another way to be completely assured your ballot is getting dropped off as if you’re going to the polls,” the congressman said. “I think you’re going to see a lot more of this happening.”
Election officials in some states have come out against adding drop boxes, saying doing so would be too costly, raises security concerns or would violate state laws.
In a tweet Monday, Trump questioned the security of such boxes, saying: “So who is going to ‘collect’ the Ballots, and what might be done to them prior to tabulation? A Rigged Election? So bad for our Country."
Typical security measures for drop boxes include video surveillance, locks, tamper-resistant seals and chain-of-custody logs that are completed each time ballots are collected.
Local officials, at a minimum, should have a drop box at their main county or city office building, and it is recommended that they have one box for every 15,000 to 20,000 registered voters, according to a memo issued by federal authorities in response to the viral outbreak.
Here's a look at the confirmed drop box locations in suburban Cook County:
(Hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, depending on location)
- Arlington Heights Village Hall
- Barrington Hills Village Hall
- Bellwood Village Hall
- Brookfield Village Hall
- Burbank (Prairie Trails Library District)
- Calumet City Public Library
- Calumet TWP Community Center
- Chicago Heights (Prairie State College) NEW
- Cicero Community Center
- Cicero PSO
- Crestwood (Andrew Biela Center)
- Des Plaines Public Library
- Elk Grove Village Hall
- Elmwood Park Village Hall
- Evanston Civic Center
- Franklin Park Village Hall
- Glenview Village Hall
- Hodgkins Village Hall
- Hoffman Estates Village Hall
- Lansing Public Library
- Lemont Township Hall
- Lyons Village Hall
- Matteson (Former Midwest Bank)
- Melrose Park Village Hall
- Mt. Prospect Village Hall
- Niles Village Hall
- Norridge Village Hall
- Northbrook Village Hall
- Oak Forest City Hall
- Oak Lawn Village Hall
- Oak Park Village Hall
- Orland Township Hall
- Palos Heights Recreation Center
- Park Forest Village Hall
- Schaumburg (Trickster Art Gallery)
- Skokie Village Hall
- South Chicago Hts Senior Center
- Streamwood Village Hall- Rear Garage
- Thornton Township Hall
- Tinley Park Village Hall
- Wheeling (Indian Trails Public Library District)
- Wilmette (Centennial Ice Rinks)