SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Early voting continues to shatter records  

By Bob Bong and Peter Hancock
Voters in Illinois and across the nation are shattering records for early voting in the Nov. 3 General Election.
As of Friday, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, more than 1.8 million voters statewide had already cast their ballots. Nationally, the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida estimates that 50 million Americans have already voted.
Locally, 4,699 votes have been cast as of Tuesday at the Palos Heights Recreation Center, 9,696 at Orland Township Hall, 3,734 at the Bridgeview Courthouse, 5,120 at Oak Lawn Village Hall, 4,932 at Tinley Park Village Hall, 3,814 at Crestwood’s senior center, 3,580 at Lemont Township Hall, and 2,704 at Prairie Trails Library in Burbank.
Early voting will run through Monday, Nov. 2, at all locations.
Voters who have not yet requested a mail ballot but would still like to do so have until today (Oct. 29) to make their request. The easiest and most convenient way to request a mail ballot is to apply online at the Cook County Clerk’s website at cookcountyclerk.com/VoteByMail.
County Clerk Karen Yarbrough encourages voters to apply online as soon as possible and provide an email address so that her office can inform them when their request is received and when their ballot is mailed. The deadline to return mail ballots is Election Day, Nov. 3.
In a normal election year, a large number of early votes would be seen as an indicator of high interest in the races and a predictor of overall high voter turnout.
But because of the pandemic, 2020 is turning out to be a year like no other, and one local analyst cautions observers not to read too much into the numbers — at least not yet.
“I’m willing to say I don’t know what it means yet, and we’re going to be looking closely at the final returns,” Brian Gaines, a political science professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said during an interview for a Capitol News Illinois podcast. “If I have to guess right now, I’d say, first of all, it was a success for – there was a deliberate effort to nudge people towards voting by mail, a little bit less to vote early, to reduce lines on Election Day.”
During the pandemic-shortened legislative session in May, Illinois lawmakers passed a billl requiring local election officials to send out mail ballot request forms to nearly every voter in Illinois. More than 2.3 million Illinois voters returned those forms, according to state election officials, and as of Friday, with 11 days remaining before the election, slightly more than 1 million, or 45 percent, had returned those ballots.
The new law, which applies to only the 2020 election, also allowed voting jurisdictions to provide secure drop boxes so voters could turn in their ballots personally rather than relying on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver them.
“So, the state took an intermediate path,” Gaines said. “Some states shifted to an all-mail election, joining the handful that already did that. And more typical was just to make it a little bit easier to vote by mail. Illinois was kind of in that category. We can still vote early, by mail (or) on Election Day in person.”
One of the questions on many people’s minds, Gaines said, is whether the people who are voting by mail or in person at early voting locations are people who otherwise wouldn’t have voted at all. He said he believes that’s unlikely and that the early votes will more likely result in fewer people voting in person on Election Day.
“But before I put all my chips in that hat and say it’s definitely not going to be a surge in turnout, it’s such a weird year that I think past precedent isn’t going to help us in lots of ways,” Gaines said. “So, I think it’s mostly people who would have been voting on Election Day, they’re going early instead. But if it turns out in the end that the turnout really is up, then I’ll have to go back and eat those words and say, OK, it was actually more than that, it was getting in people who otherwise might not have voted.”
Gaines has published research on early voting – what some political scientists call “convenience voting” – and he said there are advantages and disadvantages to it.
The advantage, he said, is that it makes voting more accessible to many people, especially the elderly and disabled who would have a hard time getting to a polling place. But Illinois allows “no-excuse” early voting, meaning voters do not have to demonstrate they are unable to vote on Election Day or that they will be out of town. Any voter is allowed to ask for an advance ballot.
The big disadvantage, he said, is it makes someone’s vote less secret.
“A ballot that you cast wherever you want to cast it — it’s been mailed to you, you cast it at home, you cast it at work, sitting in Starbucks — can be secret if you choose to make it secret, but the inherent secrecy of the privacy of a booth is gone. And that’s led to a very noisy but not terribly factual debate about whether there’s a huge amount of fraud, tiny amount of fraud, no fraud whatsoever.”
Gaines said he is not one who believes that voting by mail is fraught with large amounts of fraud, and he said the chances of a mail-in ballot being rejected for technical reasons are slim.
According to information from the website Ballotpedia, the most common reason mail ballots get rejected is that they don’t arrive on time. Other common reasons include the voter failing to sign the envelope or the voter’s signature doesn’t match the signature on file in their voter registration records.
In Illinois, the new law requires that each election jurisdiction create panels of three election judges consisting of no more than two from the same party to process vote-by-mail ballots. That’s an increase from one election judge under previous laws.
A spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Elections told Capitol News Illinois in an email earlier this month that election authorities keep track of party affiliation in their poll worker recruitment efforts in order to keep proper staffing at polling places and fulfill such requirements.
Per the new law, all three judges on the panel must reject a ballot for it not to be tabulated.
The judges handle every incoming mail ballot just as they hand out every ballot and check every signature at an early voting location or Election Day polling, the spokesperson said in the email.
In Illinois, according to the website, nearly 6,000 mail ballots, or 1.1 percent of the total, were rejected in the 2016 election. That rose to 2.2 percent in the 2018 election.
The full interview with Gaines is available on Capitol News Illinois’ podcast, Capitol Cast.

Local News

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.28.02 PM

Burglars hitting Chicago Lawn

From staff reports A cluster of burglaries of businesses and garages in Chicago Lawn has prompted the Chicago Police Department to issue a community alert. Crime scenes include: 3300 block…

FBIlogo

New FBI report details scams against the elderly

From staff reports People over age 60 lost nearly $1 billion in online frauds and scams last year, according to a report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released earlier…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

The garden is green and growing

By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I just had to share…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Vols turn traffic circles into treasures

By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 Greetings, neighbors! There were a lot of terrific activities going on in West Lawn this…



TROPHY – St. Laurence players gather around the third-place trophy Thursday after a 10-6 victory over Washington. It’s the fourth trophy the baseball team brought home in program history. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Quick Turnaround: St. Laurence rebounds after semifinal loss to take third in Class 3A

By Jeff Vorva Correspondent Normally, the IHSA state baseball format lasts two days. The semifinals are usually held on Friday, with the championship and third-place games on Saturday. Because of…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Sleepover leads to Gage Park adventures

By Karen Sala Your correspondent in Gage Park A few more days and we will be into the month of July already. Thank goodness I don’t live in Las Vegas…

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.

Rush hails move to protect black farmers

Wants Ag Dept. transparency  From staff reports Legislation designed to “lift the veil of secrecy regarding the race and gender of farm subsidy recipients and help ensure an end to…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Good to see in-person graduations

By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon We bid farewell to June, which is unbelievable the way it flew. There are only six more months until…

Residents at Grace Point Place, a live-in memory care facility located at 5701 W. 101st St. in Oak Lawn decorated kites to be flown by Southwest Chicago Christian School students on May 26. (Photos by Kelly White)

Kids, Grace Point Place residents fly kites

By Kelly White After months of sheltering at home, elementary students and residents at an Oak Lawn memory care community were able to spread their wings recently. Residents residing within…

With Dr. José Torres behind her, Mayor Lori Lightfoot calls her new interim CEO pick a dedicated educator committed to equity.
--Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Mary Hadac

Mayor unveils interim CPS chief

‘Thrilled beyond measure’ with Torres  By Tim Hadac Weeks after the top three Chicago Public Schools leaders announced, separately, they are leaving CPS, Mayor Lori Lightfoot staged a press conference…

Neighbors

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 3.28.02 PM

Burglars hitting Chicago Lawn

From staff reports A cluster of burglaries of businesses and garages in Chicago Lawn has prompted the Chicago Police Department to issue a community alert. Crime scenes include: 3300 block…

FBIlogo

New FBI report details scams against the elderly

From staff reports People over age 60 lost nearly $1 billion in online frauds and scams last year, according to a report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released earlier…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

The garden is green and growing

By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I just had to share…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Vols turn traffic circles into treasures

By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place •  (773) 504-9327 Greetings, neighbors! There were a lot of terrific activities going on in West Lawn this…



TROPHY – St. Laurence players gather around the third-place trophy Thursday after a 10-6 victory over Washington. It’s the fourth trophy the baseball team brought home in program history. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Quick Turnaround: St. Laurence rebounds after semifinal loss to take third in Class 3A

By Jeff Vorva Correspondent Normally, the IHSA state baseball format lasts two days. The semifinals are usually held on Friday, with the championship and third-place games on Saturday. Because of…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Sleepover leads to Gage Park adventures

By Karen Sala Your correspondent in Gage Park A few more days and we will be into the month of July already. Thank goodness I don’t live in Las Vegas…

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.

Rush hails move to protect black farmers

Wants Ag Dept. transparency  From staff reports Legislation designed to “lift the veil of secrecy regarding the race and gender of farm subsidy recipients and help ensure an end to…

SRP-IMAGE-Logo

Good to see in-person graduations

By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon We bid farewell to June, which is unbelievable the way it flew. There are only six more months until…

Residents at Grace Point Place, a live-in memory care facility located at 5701 W. 101st St. in Oak Lawn decorated kites to be flown by Southwest Chicago Christian School students on May 26. (Photos by Kelly White)

Kids, Grace Point Place residents fly kites

By Kelly White After months of sheltering at home, elementary students and residents at an Oak Lawn memory care community were able to spread their wings recently. Residents residing within…

With Dr. José Torres behind her, Mayor Lori Lightfoot calls her new interim CEO pick a dedicated educator committed to equity.
--Greater Southwest News-Herald photo by Mary Hadac

Mayor unveils interim CPS chief

‘Thrilled beyond measure’ with Torres  By Tim Hadac Weeks after the top three Chicago Public Schools leaders announced, separately, they are leaving CPS, Mayor Lori Lightfoot staged a press conference…