TREMONT — Tazewell County voters frustrated by being among the last to know area election results may start seeing those vote tallies sooner.
That's the plan under changes officially rolled out Thursday by members of the Tazewell County Clerk's Office.
The largest reason for the delay in reporting results has often been the distance judges in outlying parts of the county have to drive along rural roads to get to the Tazewell County Courthouse to offload voting materials for the official count.
"There was always the argument that you could never get Armington closer to Pekin," says John Ackerman, the new county clerk.
But instead of moving those outlying areas closer, "we reversed it and said, 'that's true, but we can move our counting closer to the center of the county.'"
He's arranged to instead use the Tazewell County Emergency Management Agency building at the edge of Tremont as the counting location.
"For the vast majority of the election judges, it's a shorter distance," he said.
He and his staff have also worked to streamline the drop-off procedures for equipment. Where the work was spread over part of the courthouse and part of the neighboring McKenzie Building before, it'll now be on a single floor, and with less waiting time outdoors.
Judges won't have to find parking along the streets of Pekin near the government complex, but will instead queue up in their cars and offload a few at a time.
"While they're waiting, they're going to be in the comfort of their own car," Ackerman said.
Judges will get their election materials with color-coded bags and documents to help speed their return at the drop-off location and reduce the amount of time staffers in the clerk's office have to spend locating various items during their count.
"If everything goes like we anticipate, it's not going to take any time at all to get those election judges through," said elections division supervisor Vanessa Reynolds.
Staff members also are planning to store the equipment at the new facility under lock and key and return items to storage the following day during regular business hours rather than using overtime to do so on election nights. And with the streamlined plan, they hope to have fewer sheriff's deputies on scene directing traffic.
That should all result in less money spent, Ackerman said.
He also said that the county's election vendor has made a tweak that will allow early-vote ballots to be counted right after polls close, meaning the initial results should be posted more swiftly, with a goal of getting them posted online by about 7:30 p.m.
The election changes are part of a strategic plan Ackerman released during his campaign.