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Local

Putnam County Board eyeing vote by mail, census numbers

HENNEPIN — Putnam County Board is on a mission to get its residents counted, both for the upcoming election and the current census.

Board members discussed this week issues related to election costs and mail-in voting, as well as the lack of local response to the census.

County Clerk Dan Kuhn said information about how to vote by mail is available on the clerk's website. Information was also mailed to residents. As of this week, he said his office has received almost 100 applications for mail-in voting. Early voting will start at the clerk's office Sept. 24.

Kuhn also gave the board a run down on the extra costs that will be associated with the upcoming election, but says grant monies should cover the expenses he'll take on by hiring extra help. Kuhn estimates the county will outlay about $17,000 for election-related expenses, which will then be reimbursed by grants.

"Vote by mail is going to be a huge undertaking," Kuhn said, "But I think right now we've got a good handle on it."

The board likely will amend the budget for election expenses capping the amount at the maximum grant Kuhn expects to receive.

"I'd rather cap it and and work backwards from there," board member Brad Popurella said.

The board also is worried about a different kind of number— the census numbers.

Perry Maier of the Illinois Public Health Association was on hand to brief the board on the numbers related to the ongoing census, which he said is on par with national numbers, but still not ideal.

Right now, Maier said 63.1% of people nationally have completed the census, in Illinois that number is 68%. Putnam County is lagging behind with just under 61% of residents completing the census.

"It's lower than normal, likely due to COVID-19," he said. "But the date was extended for people to get it completed."

That extension however, isn't without issues.

Maier said the date initially was extended to Oct. 31. then changed to Sept. 30 at which time seven states, including Illinois, filed a lawsuit against the census bureau to demand more workers to help people complete the census.

Putting it into financial perspective, Maier said each person counted in the census is 'worth' $1,400 which multiplied by the 5,700 people in Putnam County equals about $3.2 million in revenue or $32 million that could be 'left on the table' over a 10-year period.

There will be census takers going door-to-door and residents are encouraged to answer the door. Workers will be identified with badges and bags.

There also will be a drive-up census spot set up at a future date, or he said, people can complete it in just minutes online at www.my2020census.gov.

"We want 100% participation," Putnam County Treasurer Kevin Kunkel said. "Because that's where our money comes from —sales tax, property replacement tax."

The county's emergency management agency also gets grant monies based on population so the census ensures maximum dollars go to local emergencies.

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