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Want to vote by mail in Illinois? Here’s how.

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Election Day is scheduled for Nov. 3, but many Illinois residents have already requested mail-in ballots, an option state officials encourage for all registered voters this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every Illinois resident who voted in recent elections automatically getting an application to vote by mail.

Here’s what you need to know about voting by mail in the general election:

Applying for a mail-in ballot

If you plan to vote by mail, you have to apply first. Voters can download the application for a vote-by-mail ballot.

The form can be completed online or printed and mailed to your county clerk’s office. Under a state law passed in May, some 5 million Illinois residents who have voted since November 2018, as well as anyone who registered for the first time or updated their registrations since March 18, are receiving applications in the mail.

If you apply online, you’ll need either your driver’s license, state identification number or Social Security number. You’ll also have to include an email address and address where the ballot should be mailed. If you mail a paper application, you’ll need to sign the form.

The earliest that applicants can receive their mail-in ballot is Sept. 24. Voters will receive emails confirming their applications and can track their ballot through the U.S. Postal Service.

What’s on the ballot?

Candidates for president and vice president of the United States, candidates for U.S. senator and U.S. representative, candidates for state senator and state representative, as well as county state’s attorneys and county court clerks, and judicial candidates. The state board of elections has a rundown of all candidates who have filed.

Ballots should be completed in black or blue ink to be most legible, election officials said.

Mailing in your ballot

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Once you’ve filled out your ballot, you can return it through the U.S. Postal Service or licensed couriers, or bring it yourself to the election board that has jurisdiction over your area.

Voters will also be able to drop their ballots off at secured drop boxes at every early voting site in Illinois starting in mid-October. 

Before mailing their ballot, voters must seal and sign their postage-paid return envelope wherever indicated. Ballots must be received within 14 days after Election Day. Any ballot postmarked after Election Day, Nov. 3, on or after Nov. 4, the day after Election Day, will not be counted.

Voters should receive an email confirming the ballot was received by the election board, and another when the vote has been officially counted. There are no takebacks; once a mail ballot has been received by the election board, it can’t be retrieved or withdrawn.

What dates do I need to know for voting early?

Registered voters may cast a ballot before Election Day without having to provide a reason for wanting to vote early. For mail-in ballots, you can drop it in the mail as early as Sept. 24. Online voting and early voting at the local election authority or designated early polling places also begins Sept. 24. Early voting by those methods ends Nov. 2.

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