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Chicago Voters Smash Record for Requests to Vote by Mail in November Election

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Voters in Chicago have already smashed the previous all-time record for requests to vote by mail in the November election, officials say - with more than two months left until the application deadline.

More than 200,000 people applied online to vote by mail, the Chicago Board of Elections tweeted Wednesday, noting that an additional 30,000 applications submitted via mail had arrived in the past week alone.

That brings the total number of requests for a mail-in ballot to now 250,000 - more than double the previous record of 118,000 set in the March primary election, Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen said.

The record numbers for both March and the upcoming general election have been driven by the coronavirus pandemic, reaching levels that were previously seen during World War II, Allen said.

The 1944 election saw 116,000 voters request mail-in ballots, Allen said, noting that between 1944 and the March primary, the number of applications to vote by mail each cycle "varied depending on turnout of the election and interest."

Lower turnout elections would see around 20,000 requests, he said, while higher turnout contests in recent years would typically have between 90,000 to 100,000 applications.

Those figures though, Allen noted, were totals by the end of the election, while the more than 200,000 requests for this fall's general election have been submitted with more than two months before the deadline to apply on Oct. 29.

The application period opened in mid-June, with all registered voters eligible to vote by mail, a method many officials have encouraged as the pandemic continues. No reason or excuse is needed in order to obtain a mail-in ballot.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a massive expansion of voting by mail into law in June, requiring applications be sent to every voter who voted in any election since November 2018, plus voters who have registered for the first time or updated their registrations since the March primary election.

The Illinois Board of Elections is scheduled to certify general election ballots on Sept. 24, officials say, with ballots to be printed and mailed to voters beginning that day through Oct. 4.

Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within 14 days after the election. Voters can also hand deliver completed ballots into one of at least 50 drop boxes at early voting sites around the city.

Anyone who is not registered to vote can do so online up to 16 days before the election, or in person at several locations like government offices and public libraries up to 27 days before the election. After that timeframe passes, voters will have to register in person using grace period registration and be prepared to cast their ballots at the same time.

More information on registering to vote, and the application to request a mail-in ballot, can be found here.

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