Friday, September 25, 2020

Frequently-asked questions regarding vote by mail

The Vienna Times consulted the Johnson County Clerk and Election Authority, as well as guidance provided from the Illinois State Board of Elections in compiling this list of frequently-asked questions regarding vote by mail.

Do I have to vote by mail?

Voting by mail is not necessary or required. SB1863 was signed in June by Governor Pritzker in June and requires that all voters who voted in any Illinois election since 2018 be sent a vote by mail application. Some counties, including Johnson County, have elected to send out vote by mail applications to all registered voters.

These vote by mail applications were sent out to allow more individuals to choose vote by mail if they desire to do so. This is part of an effort to keep the number of people in one polling place at a time lower to lessen the risks of potential exposure to the coronavirus on election day. Voting by mail is not mandatory, though. Individuals may continue to go the their polling place and vote in person exactly how they have in the past, though. You are under no obligation to vote by mail.

If I fill out a mail-in application, can I still vote in person?

Under some circumstances. If you have previously applied for a vote by mail ballot, you will only be allowed to vote in person if you bring that ballot with you to the polling place on election day. You cannot mail-in a completed ballot and then decide vote in person without first surrendering your mail-in ballot to an election judge.

When and where will I receive my application?

County election authority offices were required to send out applications by mail no later than August 1. If you believe you should have already received your application, contact the County Election Authority office at 618-658-3611. The ballot will be sent to the address you used when you last registered to vote.

When will I receive my mail-in ballot?

The earliest ballots can be sent out is September 24th. You should receive your ballot some time after that.

Will this happen for every election?

No, this was an emergency measure and the law only states the expanded vote by mail will be in place for 2020.

Is vote by mail safe and legitimate?
This has become a contentious issue this year, but vote by mail is no different than absentee ballots, which have been used for many years in Johnson County and across Illinois and the country. Illinois is one of many states that does not require any excuse, such as being on vacation or otherwise out of the area on election day, to request an absentee ballot. This means millions of Illinoisans have voted with this exact procedure in the last few elections, with no substantiated examples of widespread voter fraud.

Do I need identification to vote by mail in Illinois?

Generally no, but you are also not required to provide identification to vote in person either. The signature on the vote by mail ballot must match the signature on file for your voter registration. If an election judge challenges your signature, you will be contacted and additional identification may be required. First-time voters will need to submit ID with their application. Because of the signature match requirement, voting by mail requires more verification than voting in person.

I still have questions. Who should I ask?

The Johnson County Election Authority can be reached at 618-658-3611. Additionally, the Illinois State Board of Elections has more information on vote by mail available online.

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