Quarantine of Greene County Clerk’s Office Raises Concerns for Smaller Counties Ahead of General Election

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 19, 2020 at 10:28am

County clerks in Illinois are asking for help as Election Day closes-in and the coronavirus pandemic is still a problem.

Green County Clerk Debbie Banghart says her office is quarantined for two weeks after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Banghart says after she was contacted on Sunday, August 9th by the employee confirming the test results, she immediately contacted Greene County Health Department Officials who said the entire office needed to be quarantined.

She says her office is set up in a way that employees work distant from each other and between that and using extra precautions, she thought there was minimal risk for spreading the virus.

I thought we had all of our bases covered, we wore masks, the sheriff put in Plexiglas between us and the public coming in and actually between two of the girls who share the same room. I clean the room up either every night or first thing in the morning, I kinda thought we were all covered, we wore masks and stayed socially apart, so I thought we were covered but apparently not.”

Banghart says it is a nightmare scenario that her office may be closed again on or around Election Day, which would mean they could not process ballots for the November election.

Banghart says she is looking into what options could possibly be available to make sure every precaution is taken to avoid being shut down again.

So it’s just a matter of keeping everybody apart for the time being as much as you can. We are trying to do all safety precautions for when people do start to come in to early vote, and keeping the six foot distance and they will have to wear a mask.

We just don’t know just yet, but we are working with the State Board of Elections to try and figure out something for us to do. I’m also looking at where we can set up a drive by drop off for people who wanted to vote by mail, but that still doesn’t help us for when people want to come in to vote.”

She says the drop off box would be a step in the right direction to help keep election day running smoothly.

Personally I like the vote by mail, we are considering the drop off location for people who don’t trust the mail can just drop it by. We could have a couple of election judges outside let them drop the ballots off to the judges and then they would bring them in and we would process them from there.

It’s just one option we are looking at right now. Several of us County Clerk’s, all from smaller counties, have been talking back and forth trying to figure out exactly what we want to do and there really just is no good answer.”

Banghart says without the clerk’s office, no one in most counties in Illinois can vote or have their votes counted. She says most larger counties have more staff with a greater separation of duties, which could help them control the spread, however it’s the smaller counties that have staff members who help take care of everything, and that could lead to issues on election day should someone else test positive closer to time.

Banghart spoke with Congressman Rodney Davis last week by phone, and she expressed her concerns for small county clerk’s offices who could face the same fate. She says she is continuing to work with the State Board of Elections to make sure they are doing everything possible to ensure her office is in full swing come election day.

She says, as for her and the rest of her staff, none of them have shown any symptoms of the virus so far.