Durbin urges mail-in voters to act early

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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, of Springfield, said Thursday that to make sure mail-in ballots are counted in the Nov. 3 election, people should request them by Oct. 19 and mail in completed ballots by Oct. 27.

Those dates are earlier than what is required under Illinois law, but Durbin said he based that recommendation to protect voters after a meeting, via computer, on Thursday with Justin Glass, 2020 election mail director of the U.S. Postal Service.

The meeting — which also included U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, of Hoffman Estates and officials of the Illinois State Board of Elections — came as Democrats are seeking an appropriation of $25 billion to shore up Postal Service operations.

Durbin told reporters later that Glass said the service has "plenty of capacity" to handle election mail, which represents 2 to 5% of mail volume. Glass also said adequate overtime and equipment will be available.

Durbin called it a "very positive, almost overconfident display" that could have been "whistling past the graveyard." But he also said Glass recommended that people request and return their mail-in ballots early.

Durbin still thinks the $25 billion is needed.

Under Illinois law, the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 29 — just five days before the election. Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said that agency is also urging people to act much earlier.

Starting Aug. 30, Dietrich said, the board is launching a $320,000 TV and radio ad campaign, involving 24 TV stations and 220 radio stations statewide, telling people to "plan your vote."

The ads will point out that vote-by-mail is "100 percent COVID-free" and urge people to "get your applications in now."

Early voting starts Sept. 24, and the ads will also encourage people who want to vote in person to do so as early as they can.

"We want to keep the crowds down" at polling places, he said.

Under Illinois law, mail-in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by the election office within 14 days of the election — by Nov. 17 — will be counted. Not all states have the two-week ballot acceptance period.

Back in May, several members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, sent a letter to GOP congressional leaders urging a "public service" appropriation of at least $25 billion to the Postal Service.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is calling back the House for a session Saturday to deal with Postal Service funding.

At a Springfield event Thursday, Davis told reporters he would have to see details of the legislation to determine if he will back that particular funding bill. He also said he spoke with a letter carrier, and "he and his colleagues are upset because now people think that they’re slowing down their mail service. … They’re upset about the rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C. The post office is implementing changes in policies that were adopted before President (Donald) Trump ever got elected and sworn in. … Our post office is going to do everything they can to make sure that nothing is affected when it comes to elections."

LaHood issued a statement Wednesday, saying he was pleased Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced he was delaying operational changes until after the election.

"The Postal Service should not be political, and while Democrats continue to use it to stoke fear and anger ahead of this election, I am confident in the integrity of our electoral process," LaHood said.

Many Democrats have said Trump, who has been saying that mail-in voting will generate fraud, is trying to slow mail service to suppress the vote.

"They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said last week of Democratic demands for the $25 billion and other funding for election security. "If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it."

In Sangamon County, the county Democratic Party has called on GOP County Clerk Don Gray to place three drop boxes, with camera security, as places people can turn in ballots without using the mail or going to the election office at the Sangamon County Complex. Gray is considering the request.

Staff Writer Brenden Moore contributed to this report. Contact Bernard Schoenburg: Bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg

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via The State Journal-Register

August 21, 2020 at 06:35AM

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