Crusader Staff Report
The start date for Early Voting for the General Election in November has been changed to Thursday, October 1, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.
Early voting begins at the Loop Super Site at 191 N. Clark St. in Chicago. There will also be a secured drop box for mail-in ballots, which go out September 24. Ballots can also be returned by USPS, FedEx or UPS.
Early voters are encouraged to wear a face mask that covers the mouth and nose, whether they are casting a ballot in person or using a secured drop box. Voters in line must maintain a social distance of six feet.
Chicago election officials have received more than 350,000 vote-by-mail applications, and 1 million Illinois residents have requested vote-by mail applications.
Last week, Chicago election officials said they expect the record number of requests for vote-by-mail ballots to continue to grow. Voters who apply for mail-in ballots should receive emails confirming their applications. They can track their ballot through the U.S. Postal Service to ensure it has been received and counted. Voters who do not receive an email confirmation should contact the board at 312-269-7900.
Elections officials also urged voters to sign the outside of the return envelope on their vote-by-mail applications. Officials said missing signatures are a common mistake on vote-by-mail applications.
However, early voting remains a viable option for voters who want to make sure their ballot counts in the General Election between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
The original start date for Early Voting was September 24, but that was recently changed with less than two months left before the November 3 election. Election officials did not give a reason for the change.
Chicago election officials are busy preparing to avoid the problems that rocked the Democratic Primary in March, when the coronavirus pandemic emerged, causing election judges to not show up at precincts, forcing them to close, as confused voters flooded other polling places.
“We’re going to have a lot of things in place. We can plan now, we know what happened in March, and we know what to do a little better,” said Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Elections.
Governor JB Pritzker is also taking precautions. “I have talked to the Board of Elections. My staff has talked to clerks across the state to make sure that they’re preparing for hand sanitizer, for people wearing masks who are manning those posts at the ballots,” Pritzker told ABC7 Chicago.
On October 14, Early Voting expands, with locations available in all 50 Chicago wards. Secured drop boxes will also be available at these locations.
Meanwhile the deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is fast approaching. Election officials have recommended October 14 as the deadline for vote-by-mail ballot requests.
Secured drop boxes will be open on Election Day. Vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked by election day will be counted if they arrive by November 17, or two weeks after election day.
With the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago still needs about 14,000 election judges to work the polls. They will be paid $14 an hour during early voting and a $230 flat rate for Election Day. Volunteers can apply to be an election judge at chipollworker.com.
This year’s General Election is expected to be hotly contested in the race for the White House. Biden and Trump are stepping up their campaigns in key battleground states that may decide the presidential race.
According to RealClearPolitics, Biden leads Trump in six battleground states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Arizona. However, Biden leads by narrow margins in North Carolina and Florida, the biggest battleground state that Trump won in 2016 over then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday, September 13, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed up on his promise to help Biden win Florida by spending $100 million of his own money.
The money will reportedly be spent on political advertisements, but questions remain whether some of the money will be used to pay for the court costs of former felons who became unable to vote.
In 2018, they won the right to vote after Florida voters approved Amendment 4 to restore the rights of ex-felons, but Governor Ron De Santis and the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law requiring ex-felons to pay court costs and fees they accumulated from their legal problems.
Activists for ex-felons took the case to court, saying the new law was unconstitutional and resembled a poll tax that kept many minorities from voting decades ago. A federal judge agreed, and the ruling was overturned in a U.S. Appeals Court.
The ruling affects tens of thousands of ex-felons who together have the potential to tilt Florida in Biden’s favor.
Organizations and NBA superstar Lebron James have mounted fundraising campaigns to pay the court fees of the ex-felons, but the efforts may not be enough to have ex-felons eligible to register to vote by the October 5 deadline.