CHARLESTON -- Expected high interest in the November election is why Coles County Clerk Sue Rennels says she wants to close her office to non-voting services the day before.

At its meeting today, the Coles County Board is scheduled to vote to authorize Rennels to make the move, which she described as a "preventative measure."

She said she anticipates a large number of people coming to her office to register and vote on the day before the Nov. 8 election, adding to the demand of preparing for the actual Election Day.

"I don't think we're going to be able to accommodate people if we don't make this move," Rennels said.

She said a record turnout is possible because of high interest in a hotly contested presidential race.

Also, she noted, Illinois now allows registration and voting up to and including Election Day, if that takes place in the county clerk's office.

Election Day is an official court holiday in Illinois, so the courthouse and all its offices will be closed on Nov. 8, though the clerk's office will handle election duties that day.

With the county board's approval, other services the office provides such as marriage licenses, birth certificate copies and property sales recording wouldn't be available on Nov. 7.

Rennels said she doesn't know of a law or provision that specifically allows the limit on services, but she thinks the office needs it to be prepared.

State's Attorney Brian Bower said he thinks Rennels has a right to limit her office's services, just as the county board has the right to have the courthouse close on holidays.

He said the move is "a little unusual" but voting matters will likely be "where the focus of the office needs to be" on the day before the election.

The county board's Offices and Rules Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the board approve the limited services for the day before the election.

Rennels said the day before an election is when some of the office's staff is out preparing polling places, while those at the courthouse are providing election judges with supplies and fielding phone calls about voting matters.

Rennels also said voting during the March 15 primary made her think there will be a high demand for registration and voting on Election Day and the day before.

She said nearly 270 people registered and voted at her office on the day of the primary, and she estimated most were Eastern Illinois University students, though the university was on spring break at the time.

With EIU in session on Election Day, that could translate into a high demand for late registration and Election Day voting, Rennels said.

The county board's meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today in the board's meeting room on the third floor of the courthouse in Charleston.

Other votes set for the meeting include adopting a policy that state law requires to ensure fraud protections are in place.

The policy that addresses auditing procedures and financial oversight is now required as a part of any grant application by any county office, according to Kelly Lockhart, executive director of the Coles County Regional Planning and Development Commission.

Lockhart said the county has many of the requirements already in place but the policy will conform to the required language and add provisions that are needed.



Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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