City breaks mail ballot record — ‘working day and night’ to find 168 new polling locations

As Chicago approaches one of its most unusual Election Days ever, the city’s Board of Elections still needs polling locations and election judges — and the city has broken a World War II record for vote-by-mail applications.

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A woman votes in the 7th ward in 2015.

Many polling places won’t have enough election judges, the Chicago Election Board announced Sunday. But volunteers, even on Election Day, are welcome.

Sun-Times file

As the clock ticks to one of the most unusual Election Day’s the city has ever seen, the Chicago Board of Elections on Sunday said it still needs polling locations and election judges.

The city has also broken a World War II record for vote by mail applications.

And despite several states opting to delay their primaries —including Georgia and Louisiana — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sunday the state’s Tuesday primary won’t be pushed back.

“If we delayed the election, it is unclear when we might be able to hold another one,” Pritzker said. “...We’re working with our local county clerks, all across the state and boards of elections, to make sure that in-person voting on Tuesday is conducted safely. “But remember, today, tomorrow and Tuesday, all our election days. Democracy must continue. We have to elect leaders, even in less than ideal circumstances.”

With election judges dropping out, officials are recruiting standby or replacement judges — and are open to walk-ons.

“If you are healthy and able-bodied and you have not traveled recently and you find your polling place needs help, you may offer to be sworn in to be a judge to help make this election work.” Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners spokesman Jim Allen said in prepared remarks released Sunday.

Officials also have created training videos online, focusing on set-up, processing voters, working polling places and closing polls and transmitting results.

Typically, each polling location has five election judges; this year, many won’t. Allen said the election board does not know how many will actually show up. About 500 people have volunteered to be standby judges.

About 118,000 voters requested mail ballots, but election officials warned those ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday for the vote to count. Voters who applied and did not get the ballot yet can go to early voting locations and vote there instead.

The board said the city is prepared to handle large numbers of people voting early.

Early voting tallies on both Friday and Saturday were about 18,000 each day. As of Sunday morning, 124,000 Chicagoans have voted early. Vote by mail numbers have tripled.

At early voting sites, hours have been extended, with six early voting sites open until 7 p.m. Monday.

Since Wednesday, 168 polling locations have opted out of Election Day — about 8% of the city’s 2,069 precincts.

Officials are urging voters to visit chicagoelections.gov to find out where to vote. Voters can also find information on their polling location by calling 312-269-7900.

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