Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but they do agree on one thing: This year’s election may be the most important one in our lifetime. A great deal of controversy has swirled around this year’s election. When you add to the mix the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns that the U.S. Postal Service will not be able to deliver an expected flood of mail-in ballots on a timely basis, many Americans are anxious about this election and whether their vote will be counted.
But you can take some easy-to-follow steps to be sure your vote counts and your voice is heard.
To vote you must be registered. An individual may register to vote in Illinois if he/she is 18 years or older on the next election day, resides in the jurisdiction for 30 days prior to the election, and is a U.S. citizen. If you are an Illinois citizen and not sure if you are registered to vote, you can check online by clicking here. If you are not registered, you can register in person at the office of the election authority and at driver’s license facilities, or you can register via mail using the Illinois Voter Registration Application available in English and Spanish. The deadline for in-person and mail in registration is October 6 and mail-in registrations must be postmarked no later than October 6. You can register online, but online registration closes at midnight on October 18. If you miss both voter registration deadlines, you may still register to vote during the grace period leading up to the election or even on Election Day.
Grace period registration and voting extends the registration period by allowing voters to register and vote in a grace period after the registration deadlines and up until the Monday before an election. You can register at your county’s election office during this period. A list of locations can be found here. Individuals wishing to vote during the grace period must bring two pieces of identification to register, one with a current address. Grace period registrants must immediately cast their ballot after registering to vote.
On Election Day, voters who are not registered to vote can register and vote at their home precinct only. Any voter who is not registered and needs to know where to go to register and vote on Election Day can use this online tool to find their proper polling place by address. Voters planning on registering to vote or updating their address on Election Day must bring two pieces of identification to register, one with a current address.
Vote by Mail!
In response to the Coronavirus, in July, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a bill that is designed to expand the number of Illinois voters who cast their ballot in the 2020 election by mail. This law requires election authorities to send vote-by-mail applications for the November 3 general election to the 5 million voters who voted in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal elections, or the March 2020 primary.
But if you didn’t vote in one of these elections, keep in mind that any registered voter can request a mail-in ballot either by mail or in person. Mail-in voting means you won’t have to take time away from your work or family to go to a polling place. The Illinois State Board of Elections says, “A major reason for early voting is to encourage greater participation in the election process. People who travel for business, work long hours or are otherwise inconvenienced by the hours the polls are open on Election Day may find it easier to vote early.” All requests by mail must be received by the Election Authority by October 29. All in-person early voting requests must be made by November 2. Click here for more about mail-in voting and to download the application form for an Illinois Vote by Mail Ballot.
Vote in Person!
The locations of polling places in Illinois are approved by the County Board or Board of Election Commissioners. The list of polling places is published prior to Election Day in a newspaper of general circulation and you can look up your polling place online by zip code.
As you would expect, election officials are making a number of changes to help protect voters’ health at polling places. If you previously voted in a senior living facility, it is likely that your polling place will be moved. Election workers will work to maintain social distancing guidelines inside polling buildings. Masks will be mandatory for election workers, but optional for voters. The Illinois Department of Public Health said counties should provide masks and offer them to people before entering, but it also specified that “election authorities are prohibited from preventing a noncompliant voter from casting a ballot for refusal to wear a face covering outside or inside a polling place.”
Be a Poll Worker!
Elections are the backbone of our democracy. Election workers are essential to ensuring a safe, fair election for all voters. If you want to support democracy and get paid in the process, sign up to be a poll worker. To be a poll worker in Illinois, you must be at least 18 years old on Election Day, be a registered voter, and have lived in the state and your precinct for a least 30 days. For more information on becoming a poll worker, contact your county election office, or Power the Polls can email or text you information.
We encourage you to actively participate in the 2020 elections and to have your voice heard. We believe that voting is not necessarily about supporting a specific party, certain candidates or even specific ballot issues. Voting is about supporting the idea of free choice. It is an expression of our rights as American citizens.