9 myths about mail-in voting in Illinois
Illinois citizens can now permanently register to vote by mail, allowing residents to cast their ballots from the comfort of their own home. Here are the facts about mail-in voting.
Illinoisans can now permanently register to vote by mail in primary and general elections, empowering voters to cast their ballots from the kitchen table rather than a local polling place.
As Election Day approaches Nov. 8, common myths about mail-in voting are gaining wider circulation. Here are the facts you should know about voting by mail.
Myth: Criminals will ask for “replacement ballots” or duplicate the ballot and vote multiple times.
Fact: Ballot envelopes mailed to your home are barcoded to individual voters. Only the first ballot submitted by any voter, with a registered bar code on the envelope, will be accepted. Voters who submit multiple ballots could be prosecuted for criminal intent.
U.S. military members have been voting by mail since the Revolutionary War.
Myth: Criminals can intercept the mail and vote on my ballot.
Fact: Illinois requires every returned ballot envelope to be signed by the voter it was registered to. Each of these signatures is then validated by election authorities based on official signatures already on file.
If the signature doesn’t match, the voter is contacted immediately to resolve the discrepancy. This “cure” period extends 14 days after Election Day to allow all votes to be counted. If a resident loses or does not receive their ballot, they can contact their local election office for a replacement.
Myth: If you mail out ballots, non-citizens and the dead will be able to vote.
Fact: Ballots are only sent to active registered voters. The question of U.S. citizenship is determined during the voter registration process, before ballots are mailed. Illinois also employs an automated process to regularly match public death records to voter registration lists to prevent ballots being sent to deceased voters.
Myth: Voters move around without updating their addresses, leaving ballots for other residents to use.
Fact: Illinois automatically updates residents’ addresses through voter registration procedures and cross matches these residents against the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address database. These vote-by-mail ballots are not forwarded in the mail.
Illinois also shares address data through the Electronic Registration Information Center with other states to automatically update voter registration information when residents move. Voters will continue to receive their mail-in ballot after moving unless they choose to “opt-out.”
Myth: Vote-by-mail ballots are thrown out if they arrive after Election Day.
Fact: County election workers will process and count all valid vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive no later than 14 days after the election.
Myth: If I leave something blank on my ballot, election authorities won’t count it.
Fact: Even if a voter doesn’t make a choice for a contest, votes on all other ballot contests remain valid and will be counted. Residents can vote for as many or as few contests on their ballot as they choose.
Myth: Encouraging vote-by-mail is a plot by the political left.
Fact: Red states such as Utah, Montana, Arizona, Nebraska and North Dakota all currently extend residents some form of vote-by-mail ballot. Research finds mail-in voting does not increase either party’s vote share.
Voting by mail is safe and supported by all political parties.
Myth: Vote-by-mail ballots are only counted if there is a close race.
Fact: County election officials will process and count all valid vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive no later than 14 days after the election, regardless of the vote count.
Myth: Criminals can illegally divert or tamper with ballots and get away with a slap on the wrist.
Fact: Tampering or diverting a ballot in Illinois is a Class 3 felony, punishable by a $25,000 fine and up to five years in prison for each ballot impacted.
Voting is a right afforded to all Illinois citizens, regardless of whether they cast their ballot from home or a local polling location.
Studies show mail-in voting could increase voter turnout at Illinois’ general elections by as many as 216,000 residents. Moreover, these voters will have more time to review their ballot and conduct research on candidates and policies in the comfort of their home.
Registration for permanent vote-by-mail opened Aug. 10 for Illinois citizens. If you don’t know whether you’re already registered, click here to find out.