Chi Hack Night’s 2020 Election Information Guide for Illinois
Published on Oct 6, 2020 by Cameron Sow , Jonathon Rogoff
The 2020 Election is fast approaching. America’s presidential contest is shaping up to be one unlike any other. Chi Hack Night wants to equip you with accurate information to support you as you cast your ballot.
In general, the most reliable place to find voting information is your state board of elections or office of the secretary of state. Here in Illinois the Illinois State Board of Elections has crucial information to help you vote.
Below are some helpful links we’ve compiled to help you find out voting information easier in Illinois.
Table of contents
- Voting in the upcoming election
- Be an Election Judge or Coordinator (and get paid!)
- Anticipating delayed results and misinformation on election night
- Other Illinois-focused voting resources
- Help us improve this guide
Voting in the upcoming election
Lets cover the basics. Below are a few common questions with concise answers.
How do I check if I’m already registered to vote?
- Vote.org has a lookup tool for anyone in the United States: www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote
- You can also look it up directly from the Illinois State Board of Elections has a voter registration tool on their website. ova.elections.il.gov. This tool also provides email updates as your application is processed.
The Illinois State Board of Elections online voter registration tool
How do I register to vote?
Depending on where you live, you’ll need to get the information from your local election board:
- Chicago: chicagoelections.gov
- Suburban Cook County: www.cookcountyclerk.com/agency/register-vote
- Outside Cook County: ova.elections.il.gov
How do I vote by mail?
Anyone in the State of Illinois can vote by mail, but you must request a ballot. To do so, the application for vote by mail ballot must be sent to the election authority for the jurisdiction in which you are registered. Online mail-in ballot applications for many Illinois residents can be found here. The official deadline to request a mail-in ballot is October 29th, but that only leaves 5 days to receive your ballot, fill it out, and return it. That puts a lot of pressure on you, the election authority, and the Postal Service to each do your part quickly. The Postal Service recommends requesting your mail-in ballot no later than 15 days before the election, which would be on October 20th. More on this here.
Vote Yes for Fairness also has a helpful tool to help request a vote by mail ballot for anyone in the state: www.illinoisvotes2020.com
You can also drop off your mail ballot at a secure drop box in your jurisdiction:
- Chicago: www.chicagoelections.gov/en/Drop-Boxes.html
- Suburban Cook County: www.cookcountyclerk.com/service/mail-ballot-drop-box-locations
- Outside Cook County: www.elections.il.gov/VotingAndRegistrationSystems/VoteByMailBallotDropBoxLocations.aspx
Block Club's map of Chicago Mail-in ballot drop boxes
I want to vote in person. When & where do I vote?
Many voters are more comfortable with voting in person. That is great, but Illinois voters should keep in mind that this year it is important to consider both when and how we vote. Early votes cast in person and mail in ballots received by the election authority prior to election day will help reduce lines on Election Day and reduce the counting and tabulation effort required on election night and beyond.
With the added complexities of voting during a pandemic and all the misinformation flying around, Illinois residents who intend to vote in person can consider requesting a mail-in ballot as a contingency plan. You can always turn in your mail-in ballot for an in person ballot, but if something happens that prevents you from voting in person, you can use the mail-in ballot to ensure your vote counts.
Per the Illinois State Board of Elections: “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” … “Each election authority generally determines the locations and hours for early voting, subject to certain requirements placed on permanent polling places for early voting.”
Additional information can be found at www.elections.il.gov/VotingAndRegistrationSystems/EarlyVotingLocationsSearch.aspx
- Chicago: chicagoelections.gov/en/early-voting.html
- Suburban Cook County: www.cookcountyclerk.com/agency/early-voting
- Outside Cook County: ova.elections.il.gov/PollingPlaceLookup.aspx
Day Of (Tuesday, November 3, 2020)
Find your polling place via Illinois State Board of Elections’ Polling Place Lookup ova.elections.il.gov/PollingPlaceLookup.aspx
How can I check that my vote was counted?
Chicago, Cook and several other counties have provided a ballot status form on their election authority website that voters can use to determine their ballot status. This includes notification of when your vote has been counted. Chicago and some other jurisdictions also push this information via email for those who completed the online VBM application. Daily jurisdiction totals of mail-in ballots returned, early votes, etc can also be downloaded here.
That being said, in nearly all elections in the U.S., there exists no way of directly verifying that published election results are an accurate reflection of the tallied votes. At least one local election in the United States has utilized a method of post-election ballot verification, although this remains uncommon.
Be an Election Judge or Coordinator (and get paid!)
Want to do more to support our democracy than just vote? You can sign up to be an Election Judge or Election Coordinator in Chicago here: chipollworker.com
If you’re interested in learning more about the job, Block Club has a useful overview.
The Cook County Clerk is also seeking judges and technicians: www.cookcountyclerk.com/agency/work-election-day
It is worth noting, that Chicago and Cook County have mostly filled the Election Day and Democratic Judge positions, so you will likely be placed on a wait list for those positions. They are still seeking Early Voting (you must be available to serve every day of early voting) and Republican Judges.
Update Oct 8th: They are still seeking judges who speak Ukranian, Russian, Gujarati, Urdu, Arabic, Tagalog and Polish.
Anticipating delayed results and misinformation on election night
Numerous public officials, reputable news organizations, and informed election observers have warned that due to the influx in vote by mail and other extraordinary circumstances , election results may be too close to call on election night. Veteran Chi Hack Night presenter and Election SOS Senior Strategist Jennifer Brandel, talked about this possibility in her recent presentation:
As such, it is incumbent upon voters, the press, and civic organizations to be ready for the very real possibility of delayed election results. More on this here.
All that being said, there may be swing states that cannot be called on election night, and it is possible that the Fair Tax ballot initiative or some of the House/local races will require additional time. However, the race for President of the United States in Illinois is likely to be called on election night.
Additionally, there will continue to be ongoing mis- and disinformation activity across social network platforms, with Facebook and Instagram being the primary vectors both in reach and influence. Learn how to avoid amplifying mis- & disinformation via Data and Society, and take a look at some of the tactics that were used to sow discord in 2016, for reference. If your interested in learning more about these issues, check out this post from the Lawfare Blog and the Nieman Lab.
As such, the election this year should be viewed as an on-going event rather than a single day, and the prudent play is to consider your options.
For those who feel comfortable doing so, casting your vote in person or by drop box at an early voting site before November 1 (or return mail in ballots via usps by oct. 20) is a sound choice to mitigate some of the concerns presented above.
Other Illinois-focused voting resources
- Virus Free Voting by Indivisible Illinois https://indivisibleillinois.org/virus-free-voting/
- 2020 Election resources by Alison Stanton https://github.com/alison985/2020-election-resources
Help us improve this guide
Have a resource you’d like to add to this? Did we miss something? Drop us a line at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to update this post with additional and accurate information.
Now, go forth and vote!
About the authors
Board Member, Chi Hack Night
Member, Chi Hack Night