Here are 6 things you need to know about voting in Chicago this fall

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Nikolette Baxter, 30, and son Jeremy, 2, both of the West Side of Chicago, wear masks when she came to vote at Midwest Terrace senior apartments which handled voting for the 50th precinct in the 27th ward. (Annie Costabile/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Injustice Watch is partnering with The TRiiBE to provide stories, perspectives, and critical information about the 2020 Election. 

The 2020 general election is unlike any before it.

With a pandemic raging across the country and doubts in some circles about the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, navigating how to vote this year can be daunting.

Investigations that expose, influence and inform. Emailed directly to you.

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But we’re here to help. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your vote counts in Chicago this fall.

1. Make sure you’re registered to vote.

First, make sure you’re registered to vote. The state board of elections has this handy registration look-up tool to help with that. But if you’re not registered, there are a few things you can do to fix that.

If you have an Illinois driver’s license or state ID, you can register to vote online by Oct. 18. People who don’t have an ID or driver’s license can register to vote by filling out this form online, printing it, and sending it to the Chicago Election Board by Oct. 6.

And if none of those options work for you, you can still register and vote at your polling place on Election Day, which you can look up here. Remember to bring two types of identification. They include:

  • Passport or Military ID
  • Driver’s License or State ID card
  • College/University/School/Work ID
  • Vehicle registration card
  • Lease, mortgage or deed to home
  • Credit or debit card
  • Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid card
  • Insurance card
  • Civic, union or professional membership card
  • LINK/Public Aid/Department of Human Services card
  • Illinois FOID card

If you have any questions about registering to vote, you can call the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ hotline for voter registration at 312-269-7936

2. Vote early or by mail if you can

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners urges people to vote by mail or vote early, given the Covid-19 pandemic.

Early voting starts on Oct. 1 at the Loop Super Site, 191 N. Clark St., before expanding to locations across Chicago’s 50 wards on Oct. 14 and runs through Nov. 2. You can register and vote at any early voting location, just make sure to bring two pieces of valid identification, including one with your current address. For a full list of early voting locations, click here.

Anyone can sign up for a mail-in ballot in Chicago. The last day to apply is Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. Click here to sign up while there’s still time.

Voters are encouraged to drop off their mail-in ballots at secure drop boxes, with a 24-hour drop box available at 69 W. Washington St., starting on Sep. 24. Other drop boxes begin accepting ballots at any Chicago early voting site beginning Oct 14.

If you cannot return your mail-in ballot to a dropbox, you can mail your mail-in ballot by Election Day, and you’re good to go as long as the county clerk’s office receives it within 14 days after Election Day. If you have any questions about voting by mail, you can call the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ hotline for mail-in voting at 312-269-7967.

3. Vote in person on Election Day — if you must

If you decide not to vote by mail or vote early, you can opt for the old-fashioned way and vote in person on Election Day, Nov. 3. You can find your polling place here, and on Election Day, you can go there to both register and vote.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has issued guidance to election officials for preventing the spread of Covid-19 at polling places, advising them to place booths six feet apart, provide hand sanitizer to voters, put up signs encouraging voters to wear face coverings and keep a supply of masks for voters who show up with uncovered faces. However, election officials are prohibited from preventing people who refuse to wear masks from voting.

If you have any questions about your polling place, you can call the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners’ hotline for polling place info at 312-269-7976.

4. Understand voting rights for incarcerated people and ex-offenders

If you’ve been accused of or convicted of a felony, your right to vote may still stand. As long as you aren’t in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections, you should still be able to vote. This means that if you are awaiting a verdict, or on probation or parole, you can still vote. Cook County Jail will be conducting early in-person voting on the weekends of Oct. 17-18 and Oct. 24-25 and will house four polling places on Election Day.

For more information, you can go here to visit Illinois Legal Aid’s page on the voting rights of prisoners.

5. Do your homework

On your ballot, there are sure to be some candidates you don’t know. It’s essential to research these candidates’ backgrounds and positions before you cast your vote, especially in local races that could affect you but haven’t made many headlines.

  • For a look at what your ballot may look like, you can click here to visit the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website.
  • Subscribe to The TRiiBE’s weekly newsletter here to stay updated on 2020 election coverage, an interactive map of polling locations, and virtual events related to the 2020 election.
  • Sign up for Injustice Watch’s special judicial elections newsletter, which includes reporting about Cook County judges running for retention. You’ll also be among the first to see Injustice Watch’s judicial election guide when it’s published in early October.
  • For detailed information on the backgrounds of any candidate appearing on Illinois ballots, head over to Ballot Ready.
  • For campaign finance records in Illinois, you can visit Reform for Illinois’ Sunshine Database, and for data at the federal level, visit the Federal Election Commission Database.

6. Know who to call for help

We don’t have all the answers, but we know some people who should, at least. Here are some places you can contact with any lingering questions.

For anything related to Chicago elections you can call the city’s Board of Election Commissioners (312-269-7900, or 312-269-0027 for the hearing impaired). The board also operates an Election Day hotline (312-269-7870).

Click here for more information about contacting Chicago election officials. Click here for answers to frequently asked questions from the Election Board. And if anyone tries to deny your right to vote at a voting booth, you can call 866 Our Vote’s election protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).