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Opinion

EYE ON ILLINOIS: No matter how, you can’t vote without providing a valid signature

Keeping track of voting statistics day by day is a little bit like watching the estimated Powerball jackpot – a lot of commas and zeroes and seemingly a new high mark around every corner.

Unlike the Powerball, which resets on occasion, voting totals are on a steady increase, and the only reset comes when we actually finish the election. On Tuesday, the State Board of Elections reported 2,154,595 million ballots requested, 482,848 returned and 177,652 early in-person and grace period voters. 

We can’t fully calculate the percentage of voters by method while the election is still in process, but we can look backward to see turnout was nearly 69% in 2016 with 5,536,280 votes cast in the presidential election. The turnout percentage was down slightly from 2012, but the raw number of voters was up by more than 300,000.

In other words, we’re edging toward 40% of the people likely to vote opting for an alternative method. With about three weeks left, all this math is subject to change – it’s certainly different by the time you’re reading this than it was as I wrote – so please forgive the data-centric reporters who find the whole subject fascinating.

We broach the subject today because of an email from reader Carol, a McHenry County resident who wrote expressing confusion about the right way to complete a mail-in ballot. She reports her official ballot clearly states “Any mark placed on a ballot other than the designated voting area which serves to identify and distinguish it from other ballots will NOT be counted.”

However, she later got a letter from a precinct official reminding her to vote quickly, signing the ballot and the outside of the envelope.

“Then I got a big postcard from IllinoisVotes2020 that says ‘Vote your WHOLE ballot and sign it.’ There is no phone number so I didn’t contact them. Am I misreading the instructions? Surely, signed ballots violate the whole voting privacy thing.”

The confusion is understandable. Last week, Shaw Media created an illustrated guide to mail-in voting using a DeKalb County ballot. If you missed it in print, visit tinyurl.com/shawvoteguide.

Don’t sign the ballot itself, sign the certification form. Election judges must verify it against the one on file with your registration – the same process used to identify in-person voters – but the outside envelope needs no identification. Also, be sure to give an email address on the correct line to be notified when your ballot arrives at the county. Many county clerks have a system for tracking ballot status with text, phone or email alerts. Contact their offices directly for information.

We can and will have a safe election. I appreciate everyone who wants to make sure they’re counted.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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