PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Your polling place might be somewhere different this Election Day.
The Peoria Board of Election Commissioners on Friday approved new precinct maps and polling place assignments for the next decade.
Precinct maps, drawn every 10 years, determine where residents will cast their ballots on Election Day.
Thomas Bride, executive director of Peoria County Election Commission, said a new law allowing 1,200 voters at each polling place reduced the number of precincts from 169 to 116, a 32% drop. Most precincts previously averaged 740 votes. The new precincts will accommodate about 1,075 people.
“Where we had a large population base, we got really close to that 1,200 number, as long as we weren’t dividing communities up and other issues,” he said.
Bride said the voters’ experience drove the majority of decisions. Just two polling places were eliminated, and they will be staffed appropriately for the expected influx of voters.
“The only real effect for a voter is on Election Day, they may end up in a different polling place. We made sure when we looked at those polling locations that they could handle the increases,” he said.
At the polling places, voters will now mark paper ballots instead of electronic ones, the same ballot filled out by vote-by-mail and absentee voter. It will give all voters “the same experience of the same ballot”, said Bride.
“It seems like we’re actually going back in time 50 years, and now we’re voting like we used to on paper ballots,” quipped Jim Manning, chairman of Peoria County Board of Election Commissioners.
Manning said many districts are shifting to paper ballots in response to the plethora of audits from the 2020 election.
“If there’s any questions, we’ve got a paper ballot as a backup. So in the event of an audit, you’ve got the paper ballots that people can go through by hand and see exactly how somebody voted. So you’re removing the electronic voting and all the concerns that are there with electronic voting,” he said.
Manning said it has been a stressful process, but it’s all for voters’ peace of mind.
“Its been very pressure-packed since the last presidential election in 2020, but Peoria County and its staff has handled this remarkably. I think it will put voters’ minds at ease in the next election when they see that they’re voting on a paper ballot now and minimizing, if not eliminating, the possibility of fraud going on,” he said.
Manning said the next steps are for the election commission and the Peoria County State’s Attorney’s Office to finalize the voting machine contracts with vendor Hart Intercivic.
“It’s the same vendor, we’ve had a great customer relationship with, very good on servicing machines and working with us to provide us the ability to have the best election we can,” he said.
Bride said the new voting machines include an upgrade to existing poll books, which contain voter information, to work with the new system.
“When the voters check in to vote, they’re looked up on the tablet, and then check-in will capture the signature. The upgrade to this actually allows us to print a paper ballot for the voter from the poll book. We verify who the person is based on the signature,” he explained.
Residents should expect to receive a voter registration form with information on precincts and voting districts.