The 2020 presidential election is one of the most highly anticipated races in recent times. Although early voting in Oak Park doesn’t seem to reflect that. The number of votes cast during the first week of early voting at Oak Park village hall was down 16.45 percent from the first week of early voting in the 2016 presidential election.

In early voting any voter registered in suburban Cook County can vote in Oak Park or one of other regional sites set up by the county.

This year, early voting at the Oak Park site began on Monday, Oct. 19 with a total of 620 votes cast that day. From that day to Sunday, Oct. 25, Oak Park village hall had a total of 4,608 votes cast, an average of about 658 votes cast per day. Friday, Oct. 23 had the highest number of votes of that seven-day period, ringing in at 793 votes, according to the Cook County Clerk’s Office.

Four years earlier, 5,515 votes were cast in Oak Park in the first week of early voting, according to data from the Cook County Clerk’s Office. 

Last week started off strong with 864 and 868 votes cast on Oct. 24 and Tuesday, Oct. 25, respectively. Oak Park village hall had its biggest day Saturday, Oct. 29, with a total of 909 votes cast but only 579 votes were cast at village hall the following day – the week’s lowest day.

Oak Park Village Clerk Vicki Scaman believes COVID-19 is the reason for the drop in early voters this presidential election year. The fear of contracting the virus by spending hours waiting in line with large numbers of other people may have dissuaded voters from casting their ballots in the first week. 

COVID-19 has necessitated the village of Oak Park to implement certain safety precautions so as not to cause the virus to spread further.

Many voters this year have also opted to vote via mail-in ballot. However, the Cook County website is behind in tracking the status of mail-in ballots, due to the increase in mail-in ballots, according to Scaman. For those who have submitted mail-in ballots but have not gotten confirmation of their receipt through the website, Scaman says to be patient. 

Attacks on the legitimacy of mail-in voting have caused some would-be mail-in voters to distrust the U.S. Postal Service and opting for the secured ballot drop box.

“We’ve been seeing more and more people bringing in their mail-in ballot and choosing to turn them in and vote in person,” said Scaman. 

In spite of the delays, Scaman asks people to be patient if they come into contact with short-tempered polling judges and to remember that the judges are putting their own health at risk to facilitate voting. 

“All of the judges that I have spoken to, while very tired, are also very excited to see the number of people that are voting,” said Scaman. “And so, we’re grateful for every person who’s come out to vote.”

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