Chicago Mayoral Election 2023

Candidates, Latest Polls and More: What to Know Before You Vote This Election Day in Chicago

From mayoral candidates to ballot changes to polls and results, here's a crash course on what to know this Election Day

NBC Universal, Inc.

Election Day has quickly arrived, with polls set to open early Tuesday morning, but for those looking for a crash course on what to know about this election, we've got you covered.

With nine mayoral candidates, a potentially history-making night, new voting decisions to be made and a runoff likely -- Chicago voters face a number of important decisions as they prepare to cast their ballots.

For those still hoping to prepare for what to expect, we have a breakdown of what you you should know:

Who is running for Chicago mayor?

The nine candidates include: Ja’Mal Green, Ald. Sophia King, State Rep. Kam Buckner, Willie Wilson, Brandon Johnson, Paul Vallas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Roderick Sawyer and Rep. Jesús ‘Chuy’ García.

Details on each candidate, who has endorsed them and where they stand on major issues can be found here.

When is the Chicago election?

Election Day is Feb. 28, however, should the mayoral race head to a runoff election, another voting session is slated to take place on April 4.

What will it take to force a runoff election?

If no candidate gets the required 50% majority of the vote, a runoff election will follow with the top two vote-getters. That election is slated to take place on April 4, if necessary.

Where do things stand right now?

What will happen on Election Day still remains largely a mystery. With less than 24 hours to go, Chicago's 2023 Mayoral Election is appearing tighter and tighter.

Polls are showing a fight to the finish, with Vallas, Garcia, Lightfoot, Johnson and Wilson all within striking distance of the top spots. But with a number of voters still reporting as "undecided" anything can happen.

The latest poll, conducted by 1983 Labs, shows former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas in the lead, battling Lightfoot, García and Johnson in a runoff.

The independent poll had a sample size of 1,458 residents who were "registered, likely voters in Chicago," 1983 Labs says.

There's a chance that voters may not even know which two candidates would be in a runoff, possibly for quite some time after Election Day.

“It might take some time after election night to call some of these races, even the mayor’s race,” Max Bever of the Chicago Board of Elections told NBC Chicago.

Election attorney Burt Odelson agrees.

“It’s very, very possible that we could have discovery recounts to see who comes in second, to see who is entitled to run on April 4,” he says.

Several factors could be at play, with the first being how closely-contested the race has become. There are a good number of candidates who have paths into the top-two spots in voting, which would then qualify them for the April 4 head-to-head runoff in the race.

What’s more, mail-in ballots, which are far outpacing any previous mayoral election in Chicago, could be key. Those ballots can be submitted until midnight on Election Day, and so long as they are postmarked by Feb. 28, they can be counted as long as they are received by March 14.

Under Chicago election law, mail-in ballots can be counted if they are received by March 14, and as a result, some candidates may petition for a recount of votes if they are close enough to believe that they still may qualify for the April 4 runoff when all is said and done.

Results in the election are due to be certified by March 21, and if a candidate finishes within 5% of the top-two spots in the race, then they would be legally allowed to request a recount, according to election experts.

That condensed timeframe would not only mean that Chicago voters may not know who will be on their ballots for the runoff until just weeks prior to the vote, but also would mean that candidates wouldn’t have much time to fundraise, run advertisements and push for votes in that limited turnaround time.

NBC Chicago will have live election results as the polls close Tuesday. Check back for details.

Why might this vote be historic?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot secured her spot in history when she became the first out and Black female leader of Chicago.

While Lightfoot has consistently remained among the top contenders in the packed group when it comes to recent polling, her bid for reelection is faced with much uncertainty.

Now, with the mayor of the third-largest U.S. city facing the possibility of an early reelection defeat, the results of Feb. 28 could be historic once again, but this time in a very different way.

Should she fail to make it into the top two slots, Lightfoot would not only be the first Chicago mayor in decades to lose a run for reelection, but she would be the first Chicago mayor seeking reelection to fail to make it to a runoff.

Though the runoff system was introduced in 1999, the first-ever runoff election didn't actually happen until 2015, when incumbent Rahm Emanuel and Jesus Chuy García advanced to a second round. Emanuel went on to win the runoff election that year.

"I feel very good about where we are," Lightfoot said earlier this week. "I feel very confident about the outcome. But I take nothing for granted and we've got to make sure that people turn up and vote. I'm not gonna leave anything to chance. We're running hard everywhere, doing our work to make sure that we are reaching voters, encouraging them to express themselves by going to the polls and voting."

Where can I vote on Feb. 28?

If you are choosing to vote on Election Day itself, but are unsure of where your polling place is, the process to find out might be easier than you think.

If you want to verify your polling place, then the Chicago Board of Elections operates a digital tool to allow you to do so.

Voters simply enter their address into the finder, then submit their name, and the lookup tool will find your current polling place.

A complete list of polling places by ward and precinct can also be found here.

All early voting locations, along with the city's election Supersite, at 191 N. Clark St., will be open on Election Day on Feb 28.

Can I vote early?

Authorities across Chicago have opened additional early voting sites for those seeking to cast ballots prior to Feb. 28.

And they're open for any Chicago voter to use.

"Any voter in Chicago can vote at any Early Voting site, no matter where they live in the city," the Chicago Board of Elections says. 'Voters can choose whatever voting site is most convenient for them, including on Election Day."

Here's' the full list of voting locations and hours.

What if I still need to register to vote?

You can check to see if are registered to vote in Chicago by using this tool.

If you need to update your voter registration, you can do so in-person at an early voting site, at an Illinois Secretary of State's Drivers facility while obtaining a new driver's license, or online.

It's important to note, however, that if you wanted to complete the registration process online, the deadline to do so for the Feb. 28 election was Feb. 12.

Can I still vote by mail?

While vote-by-mail is currently available for the Feb. 28 election, there are key dates to pay attention to, and certain steps you'll need to take in order to make sure your vote is counted.

In Chicago and Illinois, any registered voter can request to vote by mail for any election. Additionally, Chicago voters can request to join a "Permanent Vote By Mail Roster," which will automatically direct ballots for all upcoming elections to be sent to the address on file.

Either way, voters must fill out a vote by mail application first. The last day for the Board to receive new vote-by-mail applications is Feb. 23.

According to the Board, you will receive a confirmation email after your application is accepted, as well as when your ballot has been mailed to you.

There are several different ways Chicago voters can return their mail-in ballots, which already comes complete with a postage-paid ballot return envelope:

  • Through the U.S. Postal Service
  • In a secure drop box at any Chicago Early Voting location before Election Day (note that early voting sites will have drop boxes, but Election Day precinct polling places will not)
  • By personal delivery to the Election Board at 69 W. Washington, Sixth Floor

According to election officials, email confirmations are sent to voters after their ballot has been received, as well as when their ballot has been processed and counted.

The last day for vote-by-mail ballots to be postmarked is Feb. 28, the Board says. Additionally, any mail ballot postmarked Mar. 1 or later cannot be counted, as stated by law.

However, as long as a ballot is post marked by Feb. 28, the ballot has up until Mar. 14 to arrive at the Board in order to be counted in the election, officials say.

If you have requested a mail ballot but have not voted by mail, you may take your mail ballot to any early voting site, surrender the ballot, and then vote on a new ballot, in-person.

However, if a ballot has already been returned to the Board, "it cannot be retried of withdrawn."

"The same voter cannot vote in person in the polling place on Election Day unless he or she brings the mail ballot (or a portion of it) to the election judges OR completes an affidavit stating the mail ballot was never received by the voter or that it was received and lost," the Board says.

Here's a step-by-step guide to voting by mail.

What else is on the ballots besides the mayoral race?

Referendum questions

While referendums and ballot questions are a key component to any election, in the city of Chicago there will only be a limited number of queries posed to voters this February, and they will all be non-binding.

According to the Chicago Board of Elections, advisory referendums, such as the ones that will appear on select ballots on Feb. 28, are designed not to create or approve of laws, but rather “to solicit the opinion of voters on a question of public policy.”

Such referendums are non-binding, and are only intended to give officials an idea of what residents in a particular community are seeking to achieve.

Here are the questions, and which precincts will vote on them.

Chicago Police District Council

While residents are used to voting for citywide offices and for members of the City Council in off-year elections, this year’s ballot will include a new series of offices, as district councils will be elected in each of Chicago’s 22 police districts.

The new councils, formed as part of a City Council effort to improve police oversight and accountability, will consist of three individuals elected in each police district, according to officials. They will be elected every four years, on the same schedule as the mayoral and City Council races.

According to a city-run website, the councils will aim to build connections between police and communities, while also developing and implementing community policing initiatives.

Read more on this here.

Aldermanic races

While most of the attention has been focused on the nine candidates running for Chicago mayor, the Chicago City Council will also have a decidedly-new look in the new term, as a dozen incumbents aren’t running for reelection and several others are facing tough fights.

In all, 12 members of the City Council will not be seeking reelection, with several more defending seats that they’ve only recently been appointed to.

Just like in the mayoral election, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the Feb. 28 election, meaning 50% plus one additional vote, then the top two vote-getters would advance to a runoff, which will be held on April 4.

A full list of candidates can be found here.

Contact Us