Mail-in voting will be easier and more secure this fall

Every person who is not yet registered should register today.

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A voter casts her mail-in ballot on May 28 at a drop box in West Chester, Pa., prior to the primary election.

Matt Rourke/AP

Millions of voters in recent primary elections — including our neighbors in Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin — made the choice to participate safely when they shattered records for Vote By Mail.

As election administrators adopt a series of sweeping changes recently approved by the Illinois General Assembly and the governor, the Chicago Election Board is committed to register as many eligible persons as possible, and at the same time, safeguard voting rights and defend the integrity of the ballot box.

The biggest Election Code change will make Vote By Mail more accessible to all Illinois voters. In late July, the Chicago Election Board, along with all other election authorities, will send Vote By Mail applications, with postage-paid return envelopes, to all voters who have cast ballots in the last two years.

Then, starting Sept. 24, election authorities in Illinois will mail ballots to those voters who have applied to Vote By Mail. There will not be an automatic mailing of ballots to all registered voters.

The Chicago Election Board has committed to a series of measures to encourage voter registration, protect voter rights and prevent election fraud:

  • The State Election Board’s website is ready to allow U.S. citizens who will be 18 years old by Nov. 3 to register to vote. They may simultaneously apply to vote by mail. This system requires use of state ID.
  • Voters will have new choices for how to return their ballots. In addition to using the mail, voters will be able to use Secured Drop Boxes located at each of Chicago’s Early Voting sites — to avoid possible issues with delays or lack of postmarks. The Secured Drop Boxes will be staffed, and Ballot Return Envelopes will be stamped with the date, time and location before being deposited into the drop box. The attendant will remind each voter to be sure the envelope is signed.
  • Ballot Return Envelopes transports will be secured and transported daily. Overnight, the Secured Drop Boxes will be locked shut.
  • The Chicago Election Board’s website will provide voters with the ability to track the status of their ballots — first when the ballot is mailed to the voter, then when it is in the mail heading back to our office, then when it arrives in our office, and finally, with a confirmation that the ballot envelope has been accepted and counted.
  • Voters who supply an email address will receive a web page to track the processing of their Vote By Mail ballot, whether they use the mail or a Secured Drop Box to return the ballot.
  • Verification of voters’ signatures on all ballot envelopes will be subject to review by a bipartisan panel of Judges of Election, who will be trained in handwriting analysis.
  • When voter email addresses and phone numbers have been provided, we will use emails and calls (in addition to the mail) to alert any voter of an issue with their ballot envelope, so that they have more time to respond.
  • Our website provides a form for voters to update their signatures — an important option for voters whose autographs have changed over the years.
  • We will continue using our real-time connections in our Electronic Poll Books to guard against even an attempt to vote more than once.
  • The Chicago Board of Elections will continue to use various methods to maintain the integrity of the voter rolls. These include monitoring lists of reported moves and deaths, subscribing to a multi-state voter registration database, and conducting annual canvass mailings. Even though the law prescribes a canvass mailing every second year, the Chicago Election Board performs this project annually.
  • We will continue working closely with the U.S. Postal Service to monitor the success of our mailings.

The changes approved in Springfield also provide other critical protections. There is funding for personal protective equipment. There will be longer Early Voting schedules — both number of days and more weeknight hours — which will help both our in-person voters and those using our Secured Drop Boxes. Significantly, declaring Nov. 3 a state holiday will mean more large rooms in government facilities will be available to be Election Day polling places.

Taken together, these changes are designed to ensure that all of our voters may participate in the November while also protecting their health.

The Chicago Election Board encourages every person who is not yet registered to register today. And we pledge an ongoing commitment to protect rights, make voting accessible and safe, and protect the integrity of the election.

Marisel A. Hernandez, chair,

William J. Kresse, commissioner/secretary,

Jonathan T. Swain, commissioner,

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

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