Cameras are not required, but if you want to bring one to the Sangamon County Clerk's office when early voting starts Sept. 27, feel free.
County Clerk Don Gray, whose office oversees elections, will have an "early voting selfie station" where, after ballots are cast, voters can snap a selfie in front of a new backdrop with a pattern including the county seal and the words "I voted."
Gray said this week he came up with the idea based on what he has seen in the office during past elections.
"Obviously, the general public at large is interested in documenting their lives," Gray said. "And we've found that there are a lot of folks that are taking photographs of themselves in the voting booths while they're doing the function of voting. It takes a little longer, and it can be a little disruptive."
So, he said, "We're going to put down a red carpet, and we're going to have backdrop" that people can use on their way out of the office.
In addition to moving the voting process along, it will also stir social media activity to show people are voting early, which can encourage more people to do so, Gray said.
Gray also stressed people should not be taking pictures of their filled-out ballots. There is a state law that makes it a felony for a person to vote in a way "so that it can be observed by another person," or for someone "who knowingly observes another person lawfully marking a ballot."
Gray said that law was intended to fight vote-buying -- where someone might need proof of who was picked on a ballot in exchange for money or some other reward.
Early voting has become more popular in recent years and is becoming the preferred means of voting for many people, Gray said.
"We find that once you utilize the convenience of early vote, you always keep coming back," Gray said.
And he said voters who do vote weeks in advance of the general election -- which this year is Nov. 6 -- don't seem to mind that they are missing late-breaking campaign developments.
"I think the convenience of casting (a ballot) on their time, getting it out of the way so they don't have to continue to listen to the (campaign) noise any longer, I think that pre-empts" concern about late-breaking news, Gray said. "I think that's where it's going."
Early voting at the Sangamon County Clerk's office, Room 101 of the Sangamon County Complex, 200 S. Ninth St., Springfield, will be held Sept. 27 through Nov. 5 and will include some weekend days and a holiday, on a schedule that ranges from 12.5 to three hours per day.
Details of that schedule are: Weekdays from Sept. 27 to Oct 26, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of Columbus Day -- Oct. 8 -- when the office will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Weekend hours include 9 a.m. to noon on three Saturdays -- Oct. 13, 20 and 27.
Hours on Sunday, Oct. 28, are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Hours on weekdays from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 are 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; on Saturday, Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; on Sunday, Nov. 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and on Monday, Nov. 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Gray also said that while the state requires early voting on certain college campuses, his office decided -- based on some complaints in the past and a review of what is happening on some other campuses -- to expand temporary early voting hours at the University of Illinois Springfield to nine days.
Only voters in Capital Precincts 14, 37, 92, 93 and 99 and Woodside Precinct 2 will be able to vote early on campus, at the new Student Union Building, 2251 Richard Wright Drive. Hours there will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 27; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 28; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 29-Nov. 2.
Voter registration -- for people who are not yet registered or have changed name or address -- goes on at the county clerk's election office, by mail, or through a deputy registrar, through Oct. 9. Online registration, which requires a person to have a valid driver's license or state ID, runs through Oct. 21. Links explaining those options are online at sangamoncountyclerk.com under "Quick Links."
For people who need to register or update their registration closer to the election, grace-period voting -- where people register and vote the same day -- will be going on at the clerk's office from Oct. 10 through Nov. 6, Election Day. Grace-period voters need two forms of identification, including one with their printed address. Among usable documents are a driver's license, Social Security card, birth certificate, utility bill, checkbook, student ID, or credit card.
There will also be same-day registration and voting on Election Day. While registered voters need to go to their precinct polling place that day to vote, people seeking to register and vote that day can go to their polling place or the election office. Gray encourages them to go to the election office, where copies of ballots from all precincts are available. If they go to a precinct on Election Day that turns out not to be their own, they will have to travel to the correct precinct to cast a ballot that day.
The Sangamon County election office can be reached at 753-8683.