Q: County officials are pleading with us to vote early, but I’m very reluctant to comply because I’ve heard my vote might not be counted. I’m told that if a candidate has enough votes to defeat an opponent, early votes — whether by mail or in person — aren’t tallied because the win is obvious. What do you say about this?
J.B., of Belleville
A: St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook doesn’t mince words in rebutting this nonsensical piece of electoral poppycock you’ve been handed.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to believe that after you’ve voted that your vote wouldn’t be counted,” Holbrook said. “Every vote that is legally, dutifully cast will be counted, and we make sure of that. Everybody gets counted. Everybody.”
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Rather than being an afterthought, early votes actually are among the first to be counted, Holbrook assured me Thursday. Soon after the polls close at 7 p.m. on election night and officials start accepting the delivery of results from each precinct, the results of the early in-person votes and mail-in ballots will be uploaded into the computers and counted.
“They’re counted between 7 and 8 o’clock even before the precinct results come in here,” Holbrook said. “And we do that here at the courthouse, and it’s observed by all the (political) parties. They’re in there while we’re doing it.”
Besides, we’re no longer talking about just a few dozen or few hundred early votes. Holbrook says he expects 10,000 people in St. Clair County to vote early — and that’s not even counting the 4,000 ballots that Holbrook’s office already has mailed out. That’s roughly 15 percent of all votes expected to be cast. So ask yourself (if you’re not a conspiratorial theorist), how could Holbrook toss out roughly 15,000 votes when it’s his job to reconcile that every vote legally cast winds up in the final totals?
To make his job and your life easier, Holbrook is pleading with you to vote early. Do it now (yes, there are a half-dozen places open for Sunday voting). Do it next week. Do it by mail. But do yourself a favor and just do it.
“There’s going to be some extremely long lines this time,” Holbrook warned. “We had the largest primary turnout in decades, and that just shows you the hype and the type of interest there is in this year’s election.”
One of the primary reasons: A federal court ruling now allows unregistered county residents to register at the polls on the day of the election if they can produce the required identification.
“Normally what you do is you tell them who you are and you get your ballot and go over to vote,” Holbrook said. “Now, imagine that line starting to back up when someone says, ‘I’m Bill Jones and here’s my letter I got from Social Security and here’s my driver’s license. I need to register to vote here.’ ‘All, right, come right over here, sir.’ And they’re going to have to call us.
“Even if we handle that in as quick as five minutes per person, remember we registered over a 1,000, 1,500 changes of address in the primaries. We’re doing everything on our end here to make it flow as quickly as possible, but if you think you’re going to come in and register to vote that day, bring your lunch because you may be there a while. I can see us backing them out the doors. There’s no way around it. There’s just no logistical way.”
Instead, you still have nine days to avail yourself of a host of ways to avoid this human traffic jam and still be satisfied you’ve had your political say.
The easiest is by mail. Just go to www.countyclerk.co.st-clair.il.us/elections/pages/absentee.aspx, fill in the blanks, and they’ll send you a ballot — and pay the postage both ways. You can do it up until Tuesday.
“So far, we’ve been able to turn them around the same day we get the request,” Holbrook said. “So you can vote from the comfort of your easy chair.”
You also can vote at three permanent early voting sites, which now offer extended hours through Nov. 7. Holbrook’s office at the Belleville courthouse, the Caseyville Township office at 10001 Bunkum Road in Fairview Heights and the O’Fallon Township office at 801 E. State St., will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Nov. 6 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
For even more convenience, Holbrook is offering temporary sites from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today (Sunday) at Whiteside Middle School in Belleville and the B.A.S.S.C. office on Green Mount Road south of Southwestern Illinois College and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at VFW Post 1699, 621 Water St. in Cahokia.
“If you need to register to vote, you can do that at those sites also,” Holbrook said. “Anyone in St. Clair County outside of East St. Louis can use any of those early sites. So please vote early. Save yourself the aggravation.”
For more information, go to www.countyclerk.co.st-clair.il.us or call 618-277-6600, ext. 2377. For residents of other counties, consult your clerk’s office, whether by phone or online. In Madison County, for example, it’s www.co.madison.il.us/departments/county_clerk/index.php or 618-692-6290.
How many muscles are in an elephant’s trunk?
Answer to Saturday’s trivia: When I rode the Lima (Peru)-Huancayo Railroad on my birthday in 2005, it was still the highest railway in the world, reaching a peak of 15,843 feet at the Ticlio mountain pass in the Andes. But the very next near, China launched its Xining-Golmud-Lhasa line, which climbs to 16,627 feet at the Tanggula railway station in Tibet.