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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Equality Illinois town hall focuses on 2020 vote
2020-10-19

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Equality Illinois held an Oct. 19 town hall discussion to discuss the current state of the voting process.

A relatively-energized electorate is expected to show up to the polls by Nov. 3—which has been referred to by some commentators this year as "the day when voting ends" rather than "Election Day"—or to have submitted their ballots by mail. Early in-person voting began Sept. 24 in Chicago. Several suburbs further began early voting Oct. 19.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, who sponsored a bill this year aimed at ensuring the integrity of the voting process in 2020, and Grace Pai, director of organizing for the advocacy Asian Americans Advancing Justice, answered audience questions in the presentation, which was moderated by Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson and Director of Development Emily Boyce.

Morrison said that the legislation, which is SB 1863, was aimed at both easing and securing the voting process in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, as such, was only in effect for this year. The senator added that she hoped it would function as a pilot for future elections, however.

"Everything is on the table this election," Morrison said, adding that the outcome of the 2020 vote will have "real ramifications."

Johnson asked Morrison about the frustration that some voters in Illinois might feel since the state is for all practical purposes not "in play" during the presidential election. Illinois has long been a Democratic stronghold and is expected to turn out for Vice President Joe Biden; as such, to what extent does a vote in Illinois count?

Morrison answered that complacency "is exactly what the Republicans want. ... Please don't fall into that pit."

Pai added that ballot initiatives and down-ticket elections—chief among them the Fair Tax referendum question this year—"are critical to shield Illinois from what is happening on the national level."

Redistricting will also be handled by the incoming class of legislators, she noted, adding, "If we don't make our voices heard in this election, how do we make sure that our voices are heard when the maps are redrawn?"

Morrison discussed the security precautions being taken to guard the voting process, and emphasized that ballots are checked with a "presumption of validity." For example, three judges check each ballot and must agree between them if it seems untoward. The voter must then be notified within 24 hours and given the opportunity to file a corrected ballot.

Pai further lauded local election authorities for expanding voter access by offering ballots numerous in numerous languages. Previously ballots were only available locally in English, Spanish, Chinese and Hindi, she said. Eight other languages were added in 2020.

Morrison noted that voters especially worried about being in proximity to strangers because of the pandemic should make the effort to vote by mail. Persons without masks do have the legal right to be in voting facilities without face coverings, she said, though election judges may direct them to a more isolated spot there.

Nevertheless Morrison and Pai agreed that Illinois voters, no matter how they voted, could be confident that election authorities had ensured the process was stable and secure.

"The most important thing is just to vote," Pai said.

—WCT staff


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