Jasper County Clerk Amy Tarr wants all eligible voters to understand they have three options for casting a ballot in the November election.

"You can be an early voter at our office, starting on Sept. 24. Or mail in or drop off your ballot during the early voting period. Or you can cast your ballot at a polling place on Election Day. You can vote any of those three ways this year," Tarr said.

Early voting can be completed up until the Nov. 2 at the Clerk’s office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays in the Jasper County Government Building on Washington Street. Early voting will be offered from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 31 in the government building as well. The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 across Jasper County.

Tarr is not worried about voting by mail compromising federal, state or local elections. Voting by mail has been expanded in Illinois and other states due to the health risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

Safeguards are in place to ensure no one takes advantage of mailed applications for ballots. This form of voting has been offered for absentee voting for military personnel (dating back to the Civil War) and other eligible voters outside of Illinois on past Election Days. More than 6,800 ballot applications were mailed earlier this summer to eligible voters for Jasper County.

"We’re going to have even more safeguards used by our election judges for this election. One is bar codes on our applications to make sure those ballots came from our office," Tarr explained.

Tarr and her staff are working hard to make sure all eligible voters received applications for ballots. A recent change of address since the last election might have prevented timely delivery. Of course, if you have moved to a new address or changed your name by marriage you should update your voter registration by contacting the County Clerk office.

"If you did not get a ballot application then contact our office by calling us (618-783-3124) very soon and we can get one sent if you prefer to vote by mail," Tarr said. "When people move the last thing they think about changing is their voter registration address. It is quite easy to do."

There are concerns of possible fraud with deceased voters in some counties receiving ballot applications at residences. Tarr said this is an information gap that can easily be solved.

"Unless they passed away in Jasper County we are not always notified of their death and cannot purge them from our records. If family members receive the application envelope, they can let us know," Tarr explained. She does not see this issue becoming a major problem for Jasper County.

First-time voters can also join in the election this fall by registering before November. If a local resident will turn 18 before Election Day, they can cast a ballot in the 2020 election.

The uproar over mailed-in ballots has caused a lot of questions from many residents, especially with concerns that their ballots might be delivered too late to be counted. Tarr said one way to end that worry is by hand delivering your ballot before Election Day, even though she has confidence in the U.S. Postal Service.

"You don’t have to mail your ballot. You can return it to our office. Just lay it on the counter or hand it to us," she said.