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Up to 400,000 Illinois votes could still be in the mail as election night ends

More than 7% of the vote could still be out, leaving many races in the balance.

Employees sort through mail in ballots at the Cook County Clerk Election Operation Center at 1330 S. 54th St Ave. in Cicero Oct. 27.
Employees sort through mail in ballots at the Cook County Clerk Election Operation Center at 1330 S. 54th St Ave. in Cicero Oct. 27.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

In an unprecedented year for mail-in voting, election night ended with between 300,000 and 400,000 mail ballots yet to arrive to Illinois voting authorities.

That means many key races could still be waiting on anywhere from roughly 5% to 7% of the ballots cast, if turnout this election is similar to the state’s 2016 turnout of almost 5.7 million ballots cast. Mail ballots needed to postmarked on Tuesday but can be counted through Nov. 17.

An all-time high of 2.4 million Illinoisans requested mail ballots this year, and about 1.8 million of those were received for counting by Election Day.

At least 50,000 voters surrendered their mail ballots, so they could vote in person on Tuesday, according to estimates by the Illinois State Board of Elections, and that number could climb even higher.

As a result, as polls were closing Tuesday night, officials said their estimate of up to 400,000 outstanding mail ballots “could change significantly depending on the true number of mail ballots surrendered.”

More than 134,000 ballots had yet to be returned from voters in suburban Cook County, and upwards of 30,000 hadn’t yet come back from Chicago voters. DuPage County was waiting on almost 50,000 votes.