Note: I’m a registered voter in Illinois and haven’t researched the early voting policies of other states.
President Ronald Reagan called voting a “the most sacred right of free men and women.” Sacred or not, less-than-sacred stuff often happens on Election Day, preventing even those with the best of intentions to leave their ballot uncast. Work or family matters get in the way, the long lines at the polling place common in a presidential election year serve as a big deterrent, and yes — sometimes people just plain forget to vote.
Here’s the good news — Election Day issues can be avoided by voting early – or by mail.
To vote early, merely find the designated early voting location managed by your local election authority. In Illinois, each of the 102 counties and these 10 cities have their own election authority: Aurora, Bloomington, Chicago, Danville, East St. Louis, Galesburg, Peoria, and Rockford.
You can find the entire list here at the State Board of Elections website.
What is early voting? Why do we have early voting? Who can vote early in Illinois? When can early voting occur? All of those answers are provided here:
- Registered voters may cast a ballot prior to Election Day without having to provide a reason for wanting to vote early. This ballot is cast by personal appearance at the office of the election authority or at an Early Voting Center.
- A major reason for early voting is to encourage greater participation in the election process. People who travel for business, work long hours or are otherwise inconvenienced by the hours the polls are open on Election Day may find it easier to vote early.
- Any qualified voter may vote prior to Election Day at any site established for early voting by the election authority.
- The period for early voting begins the 40th day preceding an election and extends through the end of the day before Election Day.
It’s done at your convenience.
1. Find the location.
Find your jurisdiction’s early voting locations – again, the Board of Elections has made it easy with this page http://www.elections.il.gov/votinginformation/earlyvotinglocations.aspx (When the jurisdiction’s link hasn’t been updated to the fall election, visit their homepage to find the right information.
2. Note the dates early voting starts and ends.
Early voting begins on September 29th at the office of the election authority and any temporary locations that they designate. The last day you can vote early is November 7th, which is the day before Election Day.
3. Go and vote.
Note: “State law requires that a registered voter show valid photo identification before early voting. Voters casting an early ballot must display a current driver’s license, a state-issued ID card or another government-issued ID with a photograph.”
Vote By Mail
Voting by mail is accomplished by following three easy steps:
1) Request a ballot (fill out the Vote By Mail Application) by either requesting one be mailed to you or by visiting your local election authority and requesting one. Applications are being taken now and will be mailed out to those requesting one on September 29th.
2) Fill it out. Vote!
3) Mail it to YOUR LOCAL ELECTION AUTHORITY (Must be postmarked by November 3rd).
If you can’t decide whether to vote early at a designated early polling place or voting by mail, consider this: Voting by mail also gives parents the opportunity to have their children witness the filling out of the ballot, say at the kitchen table. The importance of voting can be instilled, and they can see what the process looks like up close.
So you’re now without excuse. If you’re not registered, get registered. Vote early. Or vote by mail.