Voting 101: All you need to know on early voting, registration, IDs—even selfies

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Primary Election Day is March 20. | Sun-Times file photo

The Illinois primary election on March 20 will determine the Republican and Democratic nominees who will appear on the November general election ballot. With early voting already underway in Chicago, races are in their final stretch. Here’s what voters need to know to cast a ballot this March.

Q: Am I registered to vote?

Last year, Illinois passed a law that established a system to automatically register eligible voters whenever they apply for, update, or renew a driver’s license or state ID — unless they opt out. Don’t know if you’re registered? Check your status at the Cook County Clerk’s Office website. You’ll just have to enter your full name and address. Outside of Cook? Visit the Will County, DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, or McHenry County election sites. If you’re from outside the Chicago area, consult your local county clerk.

The deadline to register online has passed for the upcoming primaries. If you missed the deadline, you can still register the day of the election or in-person during a grace period that lasts until the Monday before an election — you’ll have to bring two forms of ID and cast your ballot immediately following registration.

Q: What identification do I need to bring to the polls?

If you’re already registered at your current address and are voting at the correct precinct, you won’t need identification unless an election judge challenges your right to vote. If that happens, or you submitted a mail-in registration form that did not have an Illinois identification or driver’s license number or Social Security number, you’ll need one form of ID.

If you are registering in-person after the Sunday registration deadline, including at your home precinct on Election Day, you’ll need two forms of ID.

Some acceptable forms of ID:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License or State ID card
  • School or work ID
  • Utility, medical or insurance bill
  • School report card
  • Bank statement

Q: When does early voting start?

Early voting for Chicago residents is already underway, Cook County suburban residents can begin voting on March 5. Elsewhere, consult your local election authorities.

Q: Where can I cast my ballot?

The Clerk’s Office voter information site also provides voters their polling locations for early voting and Election Day.

Q: Can I vote for either party?

Yes, Illinois has open primaries. However, you’ll have to declare your affiliation at the polling place in order to vote in a party’s primary.

Q: Can I take a “selfie” when I vote?

Before you take a voting picture to share with friends on social media, consider that it’s a felony in Illinois to photograph your marked ballot.

Q: Who am I voting for?

Voters will nominate their party’s candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, Illinois governor and lieutenant governor, state attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, and treasurer, state house and some state senate seats. Cook County voters will decide on the race for Cook County Board president, sheriff, treasurer, and assessor as well as circuit judges, Cook County Board of Commissioners and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board of Commissioners. Democratic voters will also elect state central committeemen and committeewomen — the group that selects the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois.

Not all of the races are contested in the primaries.

Some of the hottest are:

In the 3rd Congressional District, longtime incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski is up against the more liberal Marie Newman. Democrats for governor include J.B. Pritzker, Daniel Biss, Chris Kennedy, Bob Daiber, Tio Hardiman and Robert Marshall. Rauner’s Republican challenger in the primary is Jeanne Ives.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced last fall that she would not seek a fifth term, spurring a crowd of eight Democratic and two Republican hopefuls looking to fill one of the top positions in Illinois government.

Longtime Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios faces a close race this election against challenger Fritz Kaegi. Andrea Raila’s name will also appear on the ballot, but voters will receive a notice that voting for her does not count after a court battle over her legitimacy as a candidate.

Voters will also be presented with non-binding resolutions on the ballot — countywide, voters will be asked whether they support the legalization of recreational marijuana. In the city of Chicago residents will be asked questions surrounding gun regulations, the Affordable Care Act and opioids. Some precincts will also be asked about lifting the ban on rent control.

For more information on who’s running, read candidate questionnaires on the Chicago Sun-Times voting guide. You can also visit the election websites for Cook County, the City of Chicago, your county clerk or the state of Illinois.

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