How to use Illinois’ new permanent vote-by-mail system

How to use Illinois’ new permanent vote-by-mail system

Now that Illinois voters can permanently register to vote by mail, here are some issues to consider about casting a ballot from the kitchen table rather than a polling place.

Aug. 10 marked the first opportunity to take advantage of a new state law allowing voters to tell their election authority they permanently want to receive mail-in ballots.

As the Nov. 8 general election approaches, here’s what to know and how to judge whether voting by mail is right for you.

Is voting by mail secure?

Illinoisans who care about their communities and want to root out corruption can make their voices heard by voting by mail in the Nov. 8 election. Vote by mail is safe and supported by all political parties. U.S. military members have used absentee voting since the Revolutionary War.

Who can vote by mail?

Under Illinois law, any registered Illinois voter can choose to vote by mail.

How do I get a vote-by-mail ballot? 

Request a vote-by-mail application and return it to your local election authority. Applications to vote by mail are currently being accepted.

There are three ways you can request a vote-by-mail application and return it to your local election authority.

First, complete an application to vote by mail online if your local election authority provides for online applications. Online forms can be completed through Nov. 3.

  • You can use the Illinois State Board of Elections website to get to your local election authority’s site.
  • Choose your local election jurisdiction from the menu under “select a jurisdiction” (certain cities that administer elections are listed after all the counties are listed).
  • This will take you to your local election authority’s site, where you can see whether you can apply online. If your local election authority has an online process, follow the directions there.

Second, request a vote-by-mail application from your local election authority, or print it out from the local election authority’s website. Return the application by mail. Applications sent by mail must be received by Nov. 3.

You can find your local election authority at the Illinois State Board of Elections website. Follow the directions on your local election authority’s site to obtain an application and send it in by mail.

Third, deliver your vote-by-mail application in person to your local election authority by Nov. 3.

After I have my mail-in ballot, what’s next?

Fill out your ballot. The beauty of voting by mail is it gives you time to do your research and make informed choices.

After you vote, sign the affidavit on the ballot envelope. Then send your ballot in to your local election authority. You may do this:

  • By mail: Your vote-by-mail ballot must be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 8, to be counted in the general election. It must arrive at the election authority within 14 days of the election.
  • Drop box: The Illinois State Board of Elections has a link where you can locate your local election authority to see whether they maintain ballot collection boxes near you. If you prefer to put your mail-in ballot in a drop box, you must do so by the close of polls, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 8.
  • In person: You may return your vote-by-mail ballot in person at your local election authority by the close of polls, 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 8.

What if I change my mind?

You can exchange your mail-in ballot on Election Day if you’d like to vote in person. Permanently registering to have ballots mailed to you gives you flexibility to pick either option.

Not sure if you’re registered? Click here

Important dates and deadlines

Wednesday, Aug. 10 – Registration opened for permanent vote by mail

Thursday, Nov. 3 – Last day for vote-by-mail requests to be completed online or received by the election authority if mailed, emailed or delivered in person.

Tuesday, Nov. 8 – Election Day. Polls are open 6 a.m.–7 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by this date.

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