The short answer is to increase voter confidence & get involved in the process.

(And it’s not that hard.)

The electoral process has been under fire since the last presidential election. Technology and more voting options have created skepticism among some voters, enough to keep them from the polls. Voting on election day remains the most popular method of voting, approximately 57.6% in Peoria County. However, each cycle shows an increasing number of voters choosing more convenient methods - vote by mail, absentee ballot, and early voting.

Historically, Democrats have actively facilitated the process by encouraging their members to vote early and offering legal ballot collection at common meeting places and even the voter’s doorstep. While Republicans, historically, have discouraged early voting and questioned the validity of the process. This behavior has increased Democratic voter turnout and decreased Republican voter turnout. Further, most of the campaign funds and energy are spent in the final hours of the race, rallying to get those unaccounted votes. Early voting saves campaign dollars and allows candidates to focus on those voters who are truly at risk of not casting a ballot.

How safe is voting by mail? There is a misconception that voting by mail is fraudulent or risky. Mailing a ballot increases the chance of a lost vote but only slightly. Sending a Valentine to my daughter through the mail is riskier than hand delivering it, but 99.9% of the time that note will arrive promptly via the United States Postal Service. Are there bad actors on both sides that can interfere with the election process? Of course, that’s why it’s so important for us all to participate with our local election boards as poll watchers and judges. It’s easy and usually pretty fun.

Voter participation is higher than it’s ever been and it is not expected to decline. I’ve had the pleasure of being an election judge in the past. I watched several different polling precincts operate, I watched the ballot boxes be counted, I even witnessed a random hand count, and I have never seen a discrepancy. I’ve only witnessed conscientious election board staff, board members, and volunteers facilitating, to the best of their ability, a fair and honest election process. The foundation of our democracy is predicated on the integrity of our elections, and the voter integrity process requires oversight from BOTH parties. 

We, as Republicans, struggle with the evolution of the election process, taking that “next step” in getting our supporters to the polls. Most Republicans live by their principles and play by the rules. It’s time we step up and get comfortable playing by the new rules.

There are legal practices we can exercise to help our members execute their vote. Every year we don’t implement these methods, we lose. Ballot collecting is legal in Illinois and it’s time we embrace it. It’s a way to ensure every vote is cast and counted. It’s simply enhancing and increasing the voting process which is every citizen's right in this democracy.

My call to action is for Republicans to start playing by the rules! Embrace the election process we have today while continuing to improve its integrity by participating as poll watchers and election judges. You are vitally important to the process.

Sally Owens is the candidate for the Illinois State Senate 46th District.  Her campaign website is here.

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