Expect delay in early voting: election officials

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A Chicago resident heads to a polling station during early voting inside Truman College on the Far North Side in 2016. | Getty

Early voters beware — or be left grumbling.

The task of opening up early voting by Jan. 17 — thereby adhering to a 40-day window that’s mandated by a new state law — is unrealistic to the point that it’s “not workable,” the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said Wednesday in a news release, repeating a message its been trying to spread for months.

The time frame doesn’t give officials enough time to sort through challenges filed by candidates trying to kick potential rivals off the ballot — a process that must be completed in order to finalize ballots.

A more realistic time frame would allow for early voting to begin by late January, Board spokesman Jim Allen said Wednesday.

As soon as the ballot is set, the Board will make an announcement and early voting will begin posthaste.

“It would take a miracle to get everything in place by the Jan. 17,” Allen said.

The 40-day state mandate has been in place since 2015, but this is the first time it’s touched a Chicago municipal election.The previous early voting window was 15 days.

The Board has been engaged in an ongoing effort to point out the absurdity of the early voting mandate, temper expectations and inform the public that if they do show up to vote at the Loop Super Site at 175 W. Washington atthe beginning of that 40 day window — and the ballot isn’t set — they will be handed applications to vote by mail or have the option to return at a later date.

“The delay is likely to affect only the start of early voting at the Loop Super Site. The traditional Early Voting program – with locations in all 50 wards – will begin Feb. 11 using the standard schedule of 15 days before Election Day,” the release stated.

Historically, more than 60 percent of all early voting ballots have been cast in the final week of early voting, whether the schedule was 15 days or 40 days, according to the release.

Election Day is Feb. 26. Votes will be cast for aldermen, city clerk and city treasurer.

The main event is the crowded contest to replace Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Sun-Times published an editorial on the 40-day early voting window last year.

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