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By Steve Lemieux-Jordan, Election Judge

March 22 will see the start of early voting for the Consolidated General Election.

Here are few answers to some of the most common questions we election judges are asked.

“Can I drop off my mail in ballot here?”

Simple answer: No.

More in depth answer: Unfortunately, at present, unlike the November election, we will not have a Mail-in Ballot drop off box. The Drop-off boxes are only going to be at the various courthouses around suburban Cook County, e.g. The Skokie Courthouse 5600 Old Orchard Road. However you may surrender your ballot and vote in person. If you have not received your Mail-In ballot you can still vote in person, please ask us how you can do so.

“Do I need to show my I.D.?

Simple answer: No

More in depth answer: Not necessarily, if you are a registered voter with a signature* on file an ID is not needed. You will be asked for your address (house/building) number and your last name. However if you are a recently registered voter without a signature on file you may need to show your ID. All new voters will need to provide two forms of ID, at least one with your current address. The same goes for those wanting to change their address and or name.

*More about the “signature on file”: We, judges, are tasked with matching an image of your registered signature to the one you make as you sign in. Everybody’s signature varies over time and we try to find key similarities to the image and the physical signature. Every now and then we may ask you to re-sign, giving a clue as to what is missing/not matching. There are some cases where there is no match. Please do not be offended if we suggest creating a new file signature; it is not a slight or comment on your identity. Creating a new file signature takes a couple of extra steps and typically takes less than 30 seconds to do. It is important to do, though, as this is your identifier; and once done provides an updated version for the next election.

Yes there are a few times when we have been told they did update last time. All we can do, as judges is request another opportunity to register a new signature. 

“Do you have a sample ballot?”

Simple answer: No.

More in depth answer: During early voting we are serving the whole of suburban Cook County at each site; it is therefore impractical for each site to store/distribute sample ballots. There are a multitude of sites that do share the information.

“Why do I not see a well advertised candidate‘s name on my ballot?”

Simple answer: Actually there is not a simple answer.

More in depth answer: The most common solution is that particular person may not be running in an office pertaining to your precinct and or ward, state district etc. Please go to https://www.cookcountyclerk.com/map-room here you can search for your particular ward/precinct, etc.

While many candidates have the ability to advertise to a broad audience, it does not mean they serve the whole audience. Having said that, if you are unsure, ask one of the election judges before you cast your vote. We are there to help.

“Do I have to print?”

Simple answer: Yes

More in depth answer: Your vote is not cast on the touch screen; the ballot has to be printed and then scanned. This method provides both a physical and an electronic record (via the scanner) of your vote. This is another step in ensuring the validity and accuracy of the voting process. Before you print, take a few minutes to review your choices on the touch screen: if correct, then print. When the printer has finished (depending on the size of your ballot it may need to print on both sides) printing, take a few more moments to make sure it is correct. If there are any problems let the judges know right away; do not go ahead and scan. If all is good, take your ballot to the scanner.

“I was told no one can touch my ballot”

Simple answer: Again no real simple answer.

More in depth answer: While we judges may not see the contents of your ballot, we do need to initial a small box on the top right corner of your ballot prior to your inserting it into the scanner. Typically we offer a “privacy shield” to cover your votes as we initial the box. We cannot make any other marks on your ballot unless it is spoiled (a voter may forget to vote a particular office and want to go back and adjust their vote).

Please do not wear any campaign buttons or other materials bearing a candidate’s name in the polling place. You will be asked to either remove or cover it up. Photography in the polling place is not allowed under any circumstances, unless you are credentialed member of the media and have written permission from Cook County.

We judges are there to help all the voters and provide a safe environment for you. If you have any questions regarding the voting process please ask.