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EDITORIAL: Why do we tell voters they can vote when there’s no ballot?

Early voting for the Chicago municipal election will begin Tuesday, Jan. 29. | Sun-Times file photo

Early voting for the Chicago municipal election is underway in all 50 wards. | Sun-Times file photo

On Tuesday, Chicagoans will be able to start voting at a single downtown site at 175 W. Washington St. for candidates in the Feb. 26 city elections.

But under the law, early voting was supposed to have started way back on Jan. 17, long before it was clear which candidates would be on the ballot.

Ridiculous? You bet.

You can trace the problem to a quirk in state law that requires early voting to be available in at least one location 40 days before an election. That’s a pipe dream, and always will be, and the law should be revised to reflect that reality.

With a filing deadline for candidates of Nov. 26 and an election on Feb. 26, there’s just not enough time to finish the hearings on 181 candidate objections and firm up the final ballot. Hearings at the Chicago Board of Elections didn’t wrap up until Friday.


No one wants to look like they’re trying to suppress the vote by reducing the number of days for early voting, so the quirk in the law remains untouched. But pretending that early voting will be available 40 days before an election when that’s impossible is a disservice to the electorate.

Moreover, why would any one want to vote so early? Many of the candidate forums and debates haven’t even taken place yet. This year, anyone who voted 40 days early wouldn’t have been able to evaluate, for example, candidates’ often ludicrous reactions to the news that Ald. Daniel Solis (25th) was wearing a wire as part of an investigation.

To highlight the continuing absurdity, look at the April 2 runoff in the municipal elections. Technically, ballots are supposed to be printed and early voting for the runoff is supposed to start on Feb. 21. But that’s five days before — yes, before — the Feb. 26 primary election settles who will be on the April 2 ballot. Try making that happen.

Early voting is increasingly popular, but most of it takes place in the 15 days before Election Day, when early voting polling places open up in every ward. There’s no need to start voting 40 days ahead of Election Day.

Toward the end of every legislative session in late spring, a bill usually is debated to make necessary fixes in the election code. This year’s bill, out of respect for reality, should adjust the early voting election schedule so that it makes sense.

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