By this weekend, local election authorities throughout Illinois are required to mail vote-by-mail applications to everyone who has voted in any of the 2018, 2019 or 2020 elections, the result of legislation passed this spring and only effective for this upcoming Nov. 3 general election.


In Tazewell County, the clerk’s office mailed applications July 29 to a little over 56,000 of our 92,000 registered voters.


This new law quickly passed this spring has been very confusing, and our office and others have been inundated with questions. All central Illinois election authorities are working to not only respond to them but also to completely understand everything required under this unprecedented, complex new law.


In an effort to respond directly to the questions, the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria has organized a virtual town hall meeting featuring myself and Peoria County Election Commission Director Tom Bride. "Election 2020: What Do I Need to Know?" will be aired live at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 3 on the league’s Facebook page. They will take your questions, and the moderator will ask us to respond directly.


Some items to clarify:


• The state Legislature passed this law with almost no voice from local election officials, but now we must implement the legislation.


All citizens who wish to have their voice heard by voting must have that opportunity, and this new legislation does not remove your ability to vote in person. All polling locations should be open on Election Day.


• One instance where the Legislature heard our concerns resulted in the requirement of the mailing of applications rather than ballots, ensuring all of our longstanding fraud and security procedures will continue. Anyone wishing to vote by mail must sign and return the application to our office. Once your signature is confirmed, we will print you a ballot and mail it to you. Sept. 24 is the first date we can mail out ballots.


As we do this, we will remove you from having the ability to request another ballot from us. If you show up at your polling location and request to vote, you will be required to get the ballot we mailed you or confirm what happened to the ballot you requested.


• Not everyone who voted in the 2016 presidential election will receive the mailing in Tazewell County. The County Board only authorized strictly following the new state law, and as a result 14,000 Tazewell residents who voted in the last presidential election but not in 2018, 2019 or 2020 were not included. If you are one of these 14,000 voters left out and you wish to vote by mail, please call (309) 477-2264, Ext. 3, and we will mail you an application.


• You may receive multiple mail-voting applications via text message, email, websites or political mailings. These will be accepted as long as they meet all the requirements, including a signature. However, please use caution; these applications can only be processed at your local election office. Any mailed to other locations must eventually be mailed to our offices. And if mailed somewhere else first, you will have given them access to your information.


• If you mail in multiple applications, will you get multiple ballots? Absolutely not. The fraud and security procedure mentioned above guarantees only one ballot per person.


I know not everyone supports vote-by-mail or the action taken by the Illinois Legislature. My wife and I will not be voting by mail, but rather continuing our family tradition of voting at our polling location in Washington with our children present to observe.


John C. Ackerman is the Tazewell County clerk. He lives in Washington.