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Illinois early voting numbers soar with three weeks left

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill – Over 2.1 million Illinoisans have requested vote-by-mail ballots and more than 480,000 have already turned in their ballot. Still, a significant amount of people prefer to vote early in person. The Illinois State Board of Elections reports more than 175,000 have already participated at the polls.

Officials also note it is perfectly fine if you decide to vote in person even if you requested a mail-in ballot. If you already have a ballot, the board says voters should “surrender” it at the early voting facility or election authority. However, if you haven’t received a mail-in ballot before you choose to vote early, officials will require you to sign an affidavit confirming you don’t have the ballot.

“That’s going to cancel out your vote-by-mail ballot,” said ISBE Spokesman Matt Dietrich. “So, your vote-by-mail ballot is no good anymore. But you will be instructed to be sure to discard that ballot if it shows up before election day.”

Voters could face a Class 3 felony if they ignore this rule and vote more than once. The board says voter fraud has never been an issue in Illinois and there are safeguards in place to prevent it.

Checking the requirements

Meanwhile, Dietrich says getting ballots in early helps local election authorities process the votes. Voters can mail their ballot or bring it to a dropbox by November 3. However, officials stress ballots require a signature and a properly sealed protective envelope.

“If it’s not sealed or it arrives opened, they can’t process that ballot. That ballot can’t be used,” Dietrich explained. “So, if that happens they would notify you, and if there’s enough time they’ll send you a new vote-by-mail ballot.”

Voters can apply for a mail-in ballot until October 29. Still, ISBE officials urge anyone considering this option to apply by the end of this week. The board says that will allow time for voters to receive their ballot, make selections, and send it back to the election authority.

The board hopes the ongoing pandemic won’t cause a drop in voting participation.

“What we’ve seen typically in Illinois from 1976 through 2016 in a presidential election, Illinois has an average turnout of 73%. It was about 71% in 2016,” Dietrich noted. “We do not want to see that diminished by COVID. So, hopefully, people will take advantage, plan their vote, and use the method best for them.”