The upcoming presidential election is one of the most anticipated elections in years but COVID-19 and the White House’s verbal attacks on mail-in voting have caused no shortage of anxiety and confusion. In light of this, the village of Oak Park is doing the utmost to ensure early voters have a safe and stress-free experience.

Early voting at Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St., begins Oct. 19 and extends through Nov. 2, the day before Election Day. Village hall is not an Election Day polling site.

People can cast early ballots, however, at village hall between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Weekend voting hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including on Sundays. 

Also beginning Oct. 19 and ending Nov. 2, village hall will have a secure ballot box for people to deposit their mail-in ballots.

“We’ll have a secure ballot box that will be in the courtyard of village hall during those early voting hours,” said Village Clerk Vicki Scaman. 

The secure ballot box, which looks similar to a regular blue mailbox, will be locked and in view of election judges at all times during early voting hours.

“It’s going to have security the entire time,” said Scaman.

Each night after voting hours have ended, representatives from the county will empty the box and time stamp the ballots. 

“Most people who applied for a mail-in ballot had to give an email to apply, so everybody will then receive an email that their ballot was received as it is processed, which is amazing,” said Scaman.

Voter registration is also available during early voting hours at village hall for those who missed the mail-in and online registration deadlines, Oct. 6 and 18, respectively. To register, bring a photo ID and proof of address. 

“Like a water bill or a bank bill, something official that has your current address,” said Scaman. “Then you’ll be able to register and vote at the same time.”

That grace period does not end on Nov. 3. Illinois residents can both register and vote on Election Day.

Election workers will be able to register voters in the hallway to limit the number of people allowed in the voting room — a new safety precaution due to COVID-19.

To keep election judges and voters safe from the virus, the village of Oak Park is implementing social-distancing requirements. Polling staff will instruct people to maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people.  

Social distancing signage and posters will be posted in public view. All voting machines will be safely distanced apart. Election judges will sit behind a plexiglass barrier, shielding them and the voters from each other.

People are also encouraged to wear a mask and to avoid greeting others using physical touching, such as shaking hands or giving hugs.

“We’re working very hard here at Oak Park to make sure that early voting will be as safe as possible,” said Scaman.

Voters will enter through a special entrance on the eastside of village hall, the same entrance used for early voting in March during the primary election. There will be a special waiting area for the elderly and those with disabilities. 

However, the majority of people will wait in socially distanced lines outside, so take care to check the weather and dress accordingly before heading to vote. Bring something to nibble on in case lines are long.

 “Dress for the weather,” said Scaman. “Bring a snack, wear gym shoes and bring a coat.”

On Election Day, libraries open only for voting

Come Election Day on Nov. 3, all three branches of the Oak Park Public Library will be open only as polling sites from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The parking garage at the main library will be open from 5:45 a.m. to 7:14 p.m. 

Library customer services will not be available in the three buildings or remotely on Nov. 3. People will have access to the digital library.

Bob Uphues

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