Unreturned Vote by Mail Ballots and Polling Place Consolidation: Key Takeaways from Kankakee’s Recent Election


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KANKAKEE, Ill. – The recent consolidated election in Kankakee County saw only half of the registered vote by mail ballots returned, prompting discussions about potential consolidation of polling places in future elections. 

County Clerk Dan Hendrickson provided a monthly report and a recap of the consolidated election at the Community Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Out of the 9017 ballots cast, the turnout was 13.5% of all registered voters in the county, slightly higher than the previous election four years ago. However, Hendrickson noted that the increase was largely attributed to the permanent vote by mail option. “We had a little bit over 2000 ballots returned from permanent vote by mail, which is going to be the future as more people will be participating by mail,” said Hendrickson.

However, the downside of the vote by mail option was that out of the 2061 ballots that were not returned, the county had mailed out 4093 ballots to people who had signed up. “So 2000 people either didn’t want to participate or surrendered their ballot at the polling place, which cost us at least $3000 in addition to labor,” explained Hendrickson. 

On election day, the busiest hour was between four and five o’clock, with 778 people checking in at one of the 54 polling places that were open throughout the county. This meant that on average, there was a voter checking in every four minutes at each polling place. However, some polling places experienced low turnout in the early hours of the morning, prompting discussions about potential consolidation of polling places in future elections.

“We did consider consolidating some polling places for this election, but with the countywide referendum question, we weren’t sure about the turnout,” said Hendrickson. “However, for future elections with large areas of uncontested races, we will be considering consolidating polling places, largely due to the difficulty in finding enough election judges.” Hendrickson mentioned that two polling places had judges go home sick, leaving only two judges remaining at the end of the night.

Additionally, in both Manteno and Momence, there were no contested races except for the referendum question, so some voters may have chosen not to return their ballots.

The issue of finding and retaining election judges was also discussed, with Hendrickson proposing an increase in pay for election judges in order to acknowledge and reward their hard work. “Our judges are getting older, and we need to find ways to entice and retain them,” said Hendrickson. While the exact figure for the pay increase was not provided, Hendrickson stated that it will be brought up for discussion at a future date.

The election results will be certified tomorrow morning, with just over 100 absentee ballots remaining to be counted. As Kankakee County looks ahead to future elections, discussions on consolidating polling places, increasing pay for election judges, and improving voter participation in vote by mail are expected to continue in order to ensure efficient and inclusive elections in the county.


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