Ep. 42: Make your vote count with Jim Long
Voting is the most important action a citizen can take to ensure his or her voice is heard in government. Increased voter turnout is good for our communities – locally and statewide. Jim Long joins the Policy Shop to explain a new initiative that will increase voter turnout. He also breaks downs common myths and misconceptions about voting by mail. Learn more by subscribing to the Policy Shop newsletter at illin.is/newsletter.
This edition of The Policy Shop comes to you from Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Long.
Increased voter turnout is good for our communities, locally and statewide. Getting fellow citizens engaged in the process that shapes our policies helps us build a better future for Illinois. That’s why legislation passed this year to make it easier to vote is good news for Illinoisans, especially those who haven’t been as active in past elections.
New at the ballot box: Recent legislation gives Illinois voters the ability to choose to automatically and permanently receive mail-in ballots for all future primary and general elections with a single application. Previously a voter had to request a mail-in ballot prior to each election. Voters can file their request at any time.
It works: Other states that automatically send eligible voters mail-in ballots – while still providing in-person voting centers – have seen an increase in voter turnout of more than 2 percentage points. If Illinois’ permanent vote-by-mail initiative experiences similar results, it would see an extra 200,000 votes in each general election. That’s more than the total population of Aurora voting.
Expanding voting options has been shown to encourage participation among lower-propensity voting groups such as young people, blue-collar workers, voters with less educational attainment and minority voters. Notably, allowing universal voting by mail does not appear to increase either major party’s vote share, even when accounting for disparate turnout effects among different groups. One plausible explanation is voting by mail allows voters to research the items on their ballot, leading to more informed choices. In theory, giving voters more options for casting a ballot also lowers the costs associated with voting.
To the naysayers: Of course some, such as some Republicans, have decried voting by mail, claiming it increases fraudulent voting. However, studies consistently find there to be no evidence that mail ballots increase electoral fraud. The U.S. military has been voting by mail since the Revolution.
The perks: Voting by mail permanently comes with unique benefits, because it:
- Ensures voters directly receive their ballots for all elections.
- Tracks the ballot and confirms it is counted.
- Gives voters time to do the research. With the official ballot in hand, voters can be as informed as possible about all candidates, resolutions, referendums and amendments.
- Still allows voting in person. If voters want to vote early or vote in person on Election Day, they simply present their vote-by-mail ballot to the election judge at the polling place to cast their in-person vote.
Reminders: Illinois’ primary election is coming up quickly! Take note of these dates to make sure your vote is counted.
- June 23 – Last day for vote-by-mail request to be completed online or received by the election authority if mailed.
- June 27 – Last day of early, in-person voting.
- June 28 – Polls are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Last day to get mail-in ballots postmarked. Last day to drop off mail-in ballots at the election authority either in the office or by using a drop box, with both closing at 7 p.m.
- July 12 – Last day election authorities will accept mail-in ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day, June 28.