Decision 2020

Chicago Voters Break Record for Vote By Mail Applications

It could be just a matter of time before Chicago sees the number of voters double, triple and even quintuple, according to recent reports

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In record-breaking numbers, more than 900,000 voters across Chicago have already completed Vote By Mail applications to receive voting cards this week.

As mailings begin Thursday, voters will receive voting cards through July 28. Another 500,000 individuals will receive voter cards and information on how to apply, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

A third group of 120,000 voters who have already applied by Vote By Mail will receive voter cards and information on when to expect their ballots, along with how to return them.

Chicago Election Board Executive Director Lance Gough said that since application submission began, more than 121,000 Chicagoans have applied online, setting a new record.

“Now, it’s just a matter of time before we see when Chicago voters may double, triple and maybe even quintuple those records from March 2020 and before that, November 1944 in World War II,” Gough said.

All voters who participated in recent elections should have received an application for a mail ballot, thanks to a bill that Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law in June.

“Whether or not there's a vaccine, there's going to be a vote. And we need to do everything we can to keep our voters and our poll workers safe,” said James Allen with the Chicago Board of Elections.

Ballots will be mailed in late September and early October. All mail ballots must be postmarked by Election Day on Nov. 3 to be counted.

Allen said the new law strikes a “middle ground.” While states such as California have decided to mail ballots to all voters, Illinois will send applications for ballots to those who’ve participated in elections since November 2018.

Vote-by-mail expansion has become a political flashpoint. President Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of statewide mail-in voting, claiming in an April 8 tweet that it leaves a “tremendous potential for voter fraud.”

There is no proof of that, and experts reiterate that voting by mail is safe and secure.

“It's been tried and it's worked in several jurisdictions, both red and blue, as well as purple,” Allen said. “The key thing for everybody to remember is to apply as early as possible, so that they have the time to receive their ballot and have the time to return their ballot.”

Once applications are submitted, the Election Board will notify voters by email when the ballot has been mailed, when the ballot envelope has been returned and when the ballot has been processed and counted.

In-person voting will still be available on Election Day. Poll worker training will be conducted online and precautions, such as PPE and plexiglass, will be on hand, Allen said.

The new law also recognizes Election Day as a state holiday, which will open up more polling locations such as schools.

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