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OUR VIEW: When it comes to voting, you have safe options

The scenes last April during the Wisconsin primary election enraged many people. In Milwaukee, as the polls were closing, lines of voters remained wrapped around several blocks, voters spaced a comfortable 6 feet apart, some wearing masks, waiting to get inside their polling place. It was cold and raining, yet people still waited to have their say in the democratic process during a pandemic.

When we vote, we shouldn’t have to experience what Wisconsin voters did last spring. We aren’t sure what we will face when we go to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3. But we know we want to vote safely, and we hope for the process to be efficient.

If you don’t want to vote in person on Nov. 3, you can vote early or you can vote by mail, which is the safest way because you don’t even have to leave your home.

You can request a mail-in ballot until Oct. 29.

This week, 260,000 Illinois voters already have returned their mail-in ballot. So far, 2 million Illinois voters have requested a mail-in ballot, said Matt Dietrich, Illinois Elections Board spokesman. He said that number is expected to reach 2.5 million by Oct. 29. That’s more than 5½ times the 427,993 who requested a mail-in ballot in 2016. In 2012, 222,055 requested a mail-in ballot.

“We have a very motivated electorate,” Dietrich said. “People want to vote but want to avoid going to the polls during the pandemic.”

The number of registered Illinois voters has increased to 8.2 million. Some 5.5 million Illinois voters cast a ballot in 2016, or 69% statewide, with nearly 8% of the statewide turnout voting by mail. With a similar turnout in 2020, about 45% of voters are likely to vote by mail. Dietrich said between 85% and 90% of voters requesting a mail-in ballot return it.

Some have expressed concern about the validity of vote-by-mail ballots. But Illinois has had more than 10 years’ experience with voting by mail and has not had any widespread obstacles or voter fraud related to vote by mail. Five states – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington – host all-mail voting.

The greatest concern regarding mail-in votes appears to be the U.S. Postal Service’s warning 46 states, including Illinois, in August that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the Nov. 3 election will arrive in time to be counted.

If you have a mail-in ballot, make sure you fill it out properly and put it in the mail as soon as possible so it gets to your local election office by the deadline to be counted.

For information on local races throughout Shaw Media’s markets, visit Election Central at

Meanwhile, concern remains over how the pandemic will affect the polls. As we reported last month, veteran election judges have backed out of working on Nov. 3 for fear of their safety. Election officials have been recruiting teenagers to be judges. Anyone who will be at least 16 years old on Nov. 3 is eligible to be an election judge.

Don’t allow any of these concerns to stop you from voting. Please vote in the manner you feel most comfortable and safe.

A vote is your voice in democracy – use it.

If you have questions about voting on Nov. 3, check with the Illinois Elections Board by visiting or calling 312-814-6440.

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