BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington-Normal residents could find voter registration taking place in some unexpected places starting next month.
Connect Transit's new "community bus" will take to the streets starting mid-December to register voters for the March 20 primary election alongside representatives of the McLean County Clerk's office, which is organizing the effort, and the Bloomington Election Commission (BEC).
Schedules haven't been finalized, but officials hope to bring the bus to locations like Walmart and Western Avenue Community Center for two hours twice a week, making it easier for voters to register.
"We're wanting to hit people where they're already going to be rather than them having to come to us," said BEC Assistant Director Carrie Robinson. Registration is available at the BEC and County Clerk's offices, both located in the Government Center at 115 E. Washington St. in downtown Bloomington.
The BEC manages elections in the city of Bloomington, and the clerk's office runs them elsewhere in the county, including Normal.
Adults eligible to vote will be able to fill out paperwork on the bus or take it home to return later.
Connect Transit is retrofitting a retired bus into a vehicle that, like Bloomington Public Library's bookmobile, brings goods and services to the community, but on a broader scale than books and media.
They expect it to cost less than $1,000, accrue few road miles and last several years.
Officials said they haven't landed on a catchy name for the project and invite public suggestions.
"We've talked about a fresh food market... children's literacy night on the bus, health clinic and voter registration," said Jeff Holtke, Connect Transit's marketing manager, of possible services on the bus.
Officials hope to offer at least information on all of those services to people registering to vote.
Connect Transit also plans to offer free bus rides on its regular routes for Election Day, both for the primary and the Nov. 6 general election.