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Early Voting Center Opens in Urbana


The new Early Voting Center at the University of Illinois Urbana campus is open for business, but there's disagreement about the center's location and level of convenience.

Champaign County Democrats wanted the state-mandated early voting center to be in the U of I's Illini Union, but Republican County Clerk Mark Shelden rented an unfinished storefront in the Gregory Place complex on the east side of campus instead. Shelden said the location would suffer less interference from political activity. Election Judge Kathy Hamilton was helping to staff the center on Tuesday, and she said it is a central location, and accessible for people with disabilities.

"If someone is in a wheelchair, there's a ramp right in front of us," Hamilton said. "They can come in, there's no threshold, and it's all on one floor."

Hamilton also noted that on-street parking is readily available. Democratic County Board member Steve Beckett pointed out that all the parking spaces have parking meters. He said free parking is one reason the Illini Union would have been a better spot.

"I knew one of the things said over at the (Illini) Union was, there was going to be free parking in the circle drive," Beckett said. "I was very disappointed about that."

Beckett also complained that about dim lighting, which he said could pose difficulties for older voters like him. Hamilton said that so far, voters in their 30s or above have been in the majority at the Campus Early Voting Center, which exists because of a state law aimed at encouraging student voting. Shelden says he plans to follow up on a letter to Gregory Place development, requesting free parking spaces at the site, and will install additional lighting. He also hopes to see the U of I promote the site,

"I hope the university will send e-mails out to people - they've done that in the past," said Shelden. "Maybe the student government group (the UI Student Senate) that was talking about how much money they were willing to spend on promoting early voting at the union - it would be nice if they would spend some of that money promoting early voting over here."

All Champaign County voters are welcome to vote early at either the campus Early Voting Center, at 700 South Gregory Street in Urbana, or at the Champaign County Clerk's office in the Brookens Center, 1776 East Washington Street in Urbana, through October 28th. Both locations are open weekdays from 8 AM to 4:30 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM to noon.

(Photo by Jim Meadows/WILL)