how to vote chicago

We all know how important voting is, but we are ignorant internet people and don’t always understand how to do it.

This election is going to be monumental. 

Ballotpedia has provided a detailed list of what positions are up for grabs, including the office of the President, U.S. House and Senate seats, and state and local offices. This will also shape future appointments, like our next Supreme Court Justice. Additionally, voters will be able to vote for a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would allow for a graduated income tax.

Sounds important!

Oh God, it is . . .

Yes?

 . . . so how do I vote? 

Learning to vote is confusing and something that was never really discussed properly in school; like how to do your taxes or sex education.

First things first: after you’ve registered, you need to – 

Registered?

OK, first things first before first things first. Registering to vote is not that bad! You can click here to see if you’re already registered to vote in Cook County. If not, the Cook County Clerk’s website will guide you through on how to register. You can register to vote up to and on Election day on November 3. Online registration ends on October 18.

Wow, that’s great news.

YES! YOU CAN REGISTER EVEN ON ELECTION DAY.

No need to shout, thank you!

IT’S AN IMPORTANT ELECTION! 

Oh my God, you think I don’t know that?

I’M SO SORRY, I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS.

Obviously.

YOU CAN REGISTER IN-PERSON OR BY MAIL. VOTERS CAN ALSO REGISTER IN-PERSON ON ELECTION DAY, BUT ONLY AT YOUR HOME PRECINCT.

OK! Please stop using caps lock, it is very aggressive!

After you’ve registered, you need to either determine if you want to do one of three things: mail-in ballot, early voting, or election-day voting.

Let’s go through them one-by-one!

A mail-in ballot is a very understandable choice for this COVID-19 hell we’re all living in. If that is the avenue you want to follow, you will (once again) find yourself at the Cook County Clerk’s office to request your ballot. You will need your driver’s license, state identification number, or the last four digits of your Social Security Number to apply, as well as your address and email to complete the form. Once completed, they will send a paper ballot to your listed address and you can fill it out at your leisure and drop it in the mail.

The last day to request a mail-in ballot is October 29. 

Ballots must be postmarked or dropped off by November 3. If, by some twist of fate, you are not able to put it in the mail by then, you can drop off your mail-in ballot at a designated location on Election Day.

Cool. What about early voting?

The first day to vote in-person is on October 1 for Chicago residents. 

The Illinois State Board of Elections has a list of early voting locations for anyone interested, with the webpage located here.

What should I bring with me? Should I bring my own stickers?

You should absolutely bring stickers. Stickers make everything better. If you’ve voted in Illinois before, you won’t need identification, but if you’re a first-time voter who registered by mail (and didn’t have identifying info like your state ID number), you’ll need either a copy of a current and valid photo identification, a copy of a lease or contract for residence, student ID and mail sent to your home, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that provides a clear indication of your name and address.

If you don’t have ID, you can fill out a provisional ballot. After voting, you will be instructed on how to offer proof of registration to the election authority. The extra information must be provided to the election authority no later than the close of business on the Tuesday following the election.

The last day to vote early will be November 2. 

I am in the military, I am overseas, or I am both.

Active-duty military, active-duty military families, and those living overseas can register to vote and get their absentee ballot using the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The process is done by mail, and you may need to list your email address or phone number for your election official to reach you. Once the form is completed, you can send it to your election official to receive your ballot. The following dates are recommended to ensure your ballot reaches your chosen election office:

35 days before election – On a ship at sea: September 28, 2020

30 days before election – Outside of the US: October 2, 2020

11 days before the election – Stateside: October 23, 2020

What about those of us who like to vote on election day?

Election day is on Tuesday, November 3. The polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. 

The same rules for early voters apply here: if you’ve voted in Illinois before, no ID is necessary. If you’re a first-time voter who registered by mail (and didn’t have identifying info like your state ID number), you’ll need either a copy of a current and valid photo identification, a copy of a lease or contract for residence, student ID and mail sent to your home, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that provides a clear indication of your name and address.

Illinois does offer registration on Election Day, so if you missed out on registering beforehand, you can still do it at your chosen polling station. You can find your polling place here.

This has been really helpful! 

Thank you. Sorry for all the caps lock screaming.

So I’m 12 years old. That’s cool to vote, right?

Yeah. So you need to be at least 18 years old on or before the next election.

Photo by Tiffany Tertipes on Unsplash

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This story was made possible by a reporting grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, in collaboration with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, and the Field Foundation.

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Eds. Note: Updated to correct that Illinois residents can register to vote up to and on Election Day on November 3. Adds that online registration ends on October 18.

Molly Harris

Molly Harris is a riddle, inside an enigma, wrapped in feminine wiles, nestled in a soft, human skin suit with a blonde wig on top. She arrived to Chicago from the wild cornfields of Indiana and spends...