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Tazewell County buys new booths for voting accessibility

Ackerman with Booth 2.jpg
Collin Schopp
/
WCBU
Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman stands next to the lower, more accessible counter that is one of four spots on each of the new voting booths.

New voting booths are coming to locations across Tazewell County to make the electoral process more accessible for everyone.

Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman says that a $135,000 ADA polling place accessibility grant has made it possible to purchase 111 new polling booths.

“We had a variety of different styles of polling booths built throughout the years, many of them hand built,” said Ackerman. “So a lot of outdated equipment.”

Originally, Ackerman says this project was planned to span over a decade, buying a few of the booths each year with county tax revenue. The grant has made any use of other funds unnecessary.

The booths, created by Evanston based company Inclusion Solutions, are foldable and about the size of a card table. It folds out into four voting booths, including one that has a lower counter and is ADA compliant and accessible for people with wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Ackerman was able to set one up and take it down in less than a minute.

Ackerman with Booth.jpg
Collin Schopp
/
WCBU
Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman finishes setting up a new accessible voting booth.

“We want everybody to have the same experience, the same situation, when they approach a polling place,” said Ackerman “So that they feel comfortable, feel relaxed when they're voting. If you have somebody else having to go above and beyond, going to different standards in order to have to vote, that discourages them.”

Currently, townships are picking up the booths from the Tazewell County Highway Department, where all 111 were delivered. Ackerman says they’ll all be distributed and ready to use in time for the November elections.

Folded Up Booth.jpg
Collin Schopp
/
WCBU
The booths collapse in under a minute and fold to be stored away until the next election. Ackerman says this will help replace permanent booths at locations like Deer Creek.

The booths themselves cost $104,000 of the grant money. The remaining funds will be used to update the McKenzie building in Pekin, Ackerman’s office and a polling location, to make it more ADA compliant as well. Currently, an entryway with two doors in the building can be problematic for wheelchair and scooter users.

“They'll open the first door by the time they get in, they have to reach to open the second set of doors,” said Ackerman. “The first set of doors will be closing on them before the other ones open.” The updates will make both doors open simultaneously.

In the future, Ackerman would like to make other changes like this to other polling locations, but he says the uniform voting booths are a start.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.