What I learned by volunteering for the Winnebago Co. election


   2020 has been a monumental and important year for us all. Two of the biggest challenges united: Covid 19 and the election. Governor Pritzker, along with many other leaders, encouraged us to vote by mail rather than voting in person.

   Because my mother was volunteering on election night, I was able to get a close-up look at the process of both mail-in and in-person ballots. I also had the opportunity to meet many other volunteers who took great pride in being part of the Winnebago County election process.

   In a normal election year, the average amount of mail-in ballots requested is usually around 2,000. However, this year over 24,000 were requested. 

   Voters with mail-in ballots had two choices: they could either mail it in or, if they were wary of putting their ballot in the mail, they could drop it off and volunteers would then time-date stamp the ballots, place them in alphabetical order, and match them with their signature card. They then put them in the voting machine to make sure the vote card and their signature matched up.

   Rockford resident Allan Duerksen was one of the many dedicated Winnebago County election volunteers.

   “I wanted to help out because I enjoy helping others,” said Duerksen. “I enjoy helping out, I was even the advocate for the children in foster care.”

  Kris Hockison, head of the election department, described how a person would come in to vote and how they inserted their ballot. She explained that when a voter inserts the ballot into the machine, the machine then counts the vote. The vote is then placed onto a memory-type card. On election night, volunteers tally up all the votes. 

   JoAnne Asplund  does many duties in the election department; for all military, she is in charge of giving them ballots even when they are stationed overseas. 

   “This year was definitely different due to all the ballot requests,” said Asplund. ¨But with the help of our volunteers, we get a lot done.”
  For this election, the county placed a mailbox outside their building for those who did not feel safe putting their ballots through the mail. The county also had two locations where you could vote early. The box was emptied several times a day, and there were strict new rules that volunteers had to follow which included wearing  gloves, facemasks, face shields, and using sanitizers and cleaners to help them stay safe. All of the locations had markings on the floor so that the voters could follow social distancing.
  Lori Gummow, Head County Clerk and Elected Official, invited me on election night and generously allowed me into the office to see how the election ran. Her motto is “Honesty, integrity, and fiscal responsibility.” Once I arrived, all the workers and volunteers gathered for a speech, then Lori had all of us raise our right hand and repeat an oath. Once sworn in, I worked with my mother. We were in charge of taking out the memory cards from the TX machines. We had to be very careful and move slowly while doing it. Once we took the cards out of the machine, we placed them in a small plastic bag and they were taken to another volunteer to run the numbers. That is when all the votes were tallied.
  This election was important to me because this is not only my future but how my future children are going to live. I would not want them to grow in a world of racism and homophobia. It was also important because this year has been so monumental and it will be remembered forever.