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Permanent Vote-By-Mail Expansion Moves To House Floor

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University of Illinois students Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, walk past a mail-in ballot drop box that sits on the northwest corner of the university's Quad in Urbana, Ill. The new drop box option was authorized as part of a new state law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June to expand early voting options and help reduce the number of people who would otherwise vote in person in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SPRINGFIELD – The House Executive Committee advanced an election bill that would make permanent some of the expansions to mail-in voting that were passed for the 2020 general election.

The bill would require election authorities to accept mail-in ballots that were submitted without sufficient postage and allow election authorities to set up collection sites or drop-boxes that accept ballots without postage.

Lawmakers approved those measures last spring for the 2020 election in order to accommodate concerns about voting in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic. But those earlier expansions of mail-in voting expired on Jan. 1.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, said those vote-by-mail provisions were successful in the 2020 general election and should continue in the upcoming consolidated elections. The consolidated primary election is scheduled for Feb. 23.

“This will be permanent because our election authorities who chose to use it found it was successful,” Stuart said.

The bill would also allow local election authorities to continue the use of curbside voting during early voting or on Election Day.

It would not require local election offices to mail or email vote-by-mail ballot applications to voters who cast a ballot in previous elections. This measure was included in the previous vote-by-mail law for the 2020 general election but will not be extended.

In order for a ballot returned to a drop-box to be counted in an election, it must be returned before voting closes on Election Day.

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, pictured here, voted against the expand vote-by-mail bill, saying it fails to provide adequate security to ensure election integrity.

Some Republicans on the House Executive Committee said the bill’s requirement that the state Board of Elections provide guidance, rather than rules, for securing collection sites does not go far enough to provide security.

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who raised similar concerns about the previous vote-by-mail bill, said the bill should require the ISBE to create rules for drop-box security.

“I think this is important for election integrity, and for people to know that in this state when they drop off the ballot, that nothing is going to happen. And I think we as the Legislature need to give an executive branch agency with oversight of our elections much more clarification as to how these boxes should be built,” Butler said.

The bill, Senate Bill 145, moved to the full House floor, with Democratic committee members voting in favor and Republican members voting against it.

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Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. It is funded by donations from the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government. Capitol News Illinois provides year-round, daily coverage of the Legislature, including committee hearings; state agencies and issues; state office holders; and the Illinois Supreme Court and legal matters.

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