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Unease about voting in person for the Nov. 3 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic in short shrift became entwined with concern about whether the United States Postal Service will be able to handle the cascade of mail-in ballots.
Cook County officials say, however, they are confident their own system of using secure drop-boxes at the more than 50 suburban early voting sites – bypassing the need to use the Postal Service – can safely collect the mail-in ballots and process them to be counted accurately and on time.
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin told the RoundTable, “We’ve got a lot of people who are scared,” but added, “we are prepared for this. I think we are all confident we’ll be able to get the ballot early; we’ll make it as easy as possible for everyone to be able to vote; we will get the votes counted as quickly as possible.”
Getting a Mail-In Ballot
James Nally, who serves as Legal Counsel to Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, an application for a mail-in ballot is being mailed to everyone who voted in the November 2018 election. Most residents should now have received the application.
Even before the County Clerk’s applications were mailed, other groups were sending information about applying for a mail-in ballot, some of them even with the application attached, Mr. Suffredin said. “They seem to be legitimate applications,” he added.
Applications for mail-in ballots must be submitted only to County Clerk Yarbrough’s office, and they must be received by Oct. 29.
After the State Board of Elections certifies the ballot – which will likely occur in the next four to five weeks – the Clerk’s office will mail the ballots.
Casting a Ballot
Early voting begins Oct. 19 and ends Nov. 2. The Morton Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave., now closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has traditionally been Evanston’s early voting site. City officials are still working on plans to create a site with proper social distancing and other precautions that will make the site safe for voters and election judges .
During the early-voting period, voters may cast their ballots in person at early voting site in Evanston, which will be open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If not at the Civic Center, Mr. Suffredin said, “You can vote at any early voting site in suburban Cook County.” He added he always votes early at one of the many suburban Cook County voting sites, so he can see how things are going.
Mail-in ballots have prepaid postage, but some may still prefer to place their ballots in the drop-box at the early-voting site. The drop-boxes will be fireproof and tamper-proof, and, since they will be placed in early-voting sites, there will be election judges on hand.
Voter verification is required. The voter must sign in a specified place on the outside of the ballot, Mr. Nally said, “to verify they are the one who cast the vote.” Anyone who wishes to use the drop-box for their ballots but who is unable to get to the early-voting site may designate someone to deliver the ballot. The voter can sign, also on the outside of the ballot, to verify permission for the designated person to deliver the ballot.
Each day when the polls close, the mail-in ballots will be removed from the drop-box and sent to be processed.
A voter who has received a mail-in ballot but not cast it and later decides to vote in person may still do so, Mr. Nally said. On Election Day only, the voter may present the mail-in ballot to an election judge at the polling place and receive instructions on how to proceed.
‘Safe and Accurate’
Mr. Nally said the Clerk’s office has “no concerns about this election, it’s going to be very safe. Mail balloting has been around for quite some time. It’s very safe, very accurate.”
Mr. Suffredin encourages everyone to vote. “We’d like to have an 80% turnout,” he said. :”The key is to encourage everyone. if you have older neighbors – check on them the way you check on them for health and safety – check to see if they are going to vote.”
To register to vote, a person must
Be a U.S. citizen
Be at least 18 years old by Election Day
Be a resident of your precinct at least 30 days prior to Election Day
Display two pieces of identification. Neither needs to be a photo ID, but one must include the current address. Acceptable forms of ID include an Illinois driver’s license, an Illinois state ID, an employee or student ID, a credit card, a Social Security card, a birth certificate, a utility bill in applicant’s name with the mail postmarked to the applicant, a valid U.S. passport, a Public aid ID card and a lease or rental contract.
In Illinois, voters do declare affiliation with a political party when registering to vote. In primary elections, voters may choose to vote a specific political party ballot on Election Day.
To register to vote, a person must
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be at least 18 years old by Election Day
- Be a resident of your precinct at least 30 days prior to Election Day
- Display two pieces of identification. Neither needs to be a photo ID, but one must include the current address. Acceptable forms of ID include an Illinois driver’s license, an Illinois state ID, an employee or student ID, a credit card, a Social Security card, a birth certificate, a utility bill in applicant’s name with the mail postmarked to the applicant, a valid U.S. passport, a Public aid ID card and a lease or rental contract.
In Illinois, voters do not declare affiliation with a political party when registering to vote. In primary elections, voters may choose to vote a specific political party ballot on Election Day.