COUNTY CLERK LAUREN STALEY FERRY, WILL COUNTY LEADERSHIP WORK TOGETHER TO SECURE FUNDING FOR VOTE BY MAIL AUTOMATION
JOLIET – Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry is pleased to announce that the Will County Board has unanimously approved $1.9 million in funding to purchase equipment to automate her office’s growing Vote By Mail program.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and the passage of new voting legislation has driven up participation in Vote By Mail to unprecedented levels in Will County and across Illinois. In the 2020 Presidential Election, the Will County Clerk’s Office fulfilled 123,779 requests for Vote By Mail Ballots, a 310-percent spike over the previous record of 30,192 requests in the 2016 Presidential Election.
The automation program will save a minimum of $500,000 per election over assembling packets and processing ballot returns manually. If the County Clerk’s Office continues to fulfill 125,000 Vote By Mail requests per election, the automation program will have paid for itself by the end of 2024.
“The approval of this automation funding shows the commitment of Will County’s leadership team and the entire Will County Board to the accurate, efficient, and secure tabulation of Vote By Mail Ballots,” County Clerk Staley Ferry said. “County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, Minority Leader Mike Fricilone, Majority Leader Meta Mueller, and County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant all recognize the importance of upgrading our program as participation in Vote By Mail continues to rise. It is gratifying to partner with this team to ensure precision and accuracy in processing ballots for our voters and to guarantee a solid return on our investment for every Will County taxpayer.”
Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan noted that cooperation between Will County’s elected officials on important projects serves the public’s interests. “The County Board supports the County Clerk’s goal of efficient and effective management of elections,” Speaker Cowan said. “We appreciate the collaboration between our elected officials in our work to provide services to the public, and we encourage voters to take advantage of the Vote By Mail option in future elections. This is a win-win move.”
County Board Minority Leader Mike Fricilone said: “When the Board makes funding decisions, we always look at the return on our investments. The savings we will see in reduced costs of the Clerk’s operations will exceed the amount of dollars the Board is allocating to make this automation happen. This just makes sense to do, and we are happy to work together to get this going.”
And Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant noted that Vote By Mail is driving up participation in our elections. “Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry successfully managed an enormous task in last year’s election,” said Executive Bertino-Tarrant. “Clearly the Vote by Mail option increased voter participation when historically, low voter turnout has often been a challenge in elections. The automation of this option will enhance its continuation and hopefully maintain higher voter participation in future elections.”
Approval of this funding enables County Clerk Staley Ferry to formalize an agreement with BlueCrest, a global leader in enterprise print, mail, and customer communications, to purchase state-of-the-art equipment to automate her Vote By Mail program. Formerly a division of Pitney Bowes’ Document Messaging Technologies, BlueCrest provides a comprehensive line of printers, inserters, and sorters for an integrated, secure, start-to-finish Vote By Mail program for processing both outbound and inbound ballots.
Equipment includes: the EvoluJet Ballot Printer which has the capacity to print up to 2,200 Vote By Mail Ballots per hour; the ReliaVote Mailstream Evolution Inserter, which can assemble for mailing up to 7,000 Vote By Mail packets per hour; and the ReliaVote Vantage Sorter, which can sort up to 24,000 packets per hour for both presort mailing and ballot returns.
The BlueCrest suite of equipment will dramatically increase the speed and accuracy of assembling Vote By Mail packets and processing ballot returns while enabling County Clerk Staley Ferry to save more than $234,000 per election on part-time workers and staff overtime alone. Streamlining the size of Vote By Mail packets and presorting them before mailing will save an estimated $183,000 in postage per election based on 125,000 ballots. Other savings of at least $100,000 per election are anticipated.
The $1.9 million approved by the Will County Board includes funding to renovate workspace in the Will County Office Building to serve as a Vote By Mail center as well as a five-year ma
intenance contract and related equipment and supplies.
The County Clerk noted that automating the Vote By Mail program will follow through on her commitment to modernize the County Clerk’s Office and guarantee secure and efficient elections.
She thanked her entire staff, particularly her dedicated Vote By Mail Department, and the hardworking team of roughly 30 Election Judges who banded together to assemble and process the 12
3,779 packets that were sent to voters and the 109,997 ballots that were returned in the 2020 Presidential Election.
With funding approved, the County Clerk expects to activate the BlueCrest system for the June 28 Primary Election.