Chicago Election Board urges vote by mail, early voting, amid COVID-19 outbreak for Illinois primary

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Concerns about the novel coronavirus are having an impact for next Tuesday's 2020 Illinois primary. More than two dozen voting locations have been moved and there is a push underway to get people to vote by mail. Early voting has been underway as well, and those sites remain open.

"We're very serious when we say vote once and wash your hands early and often," Chicago Election Board Chairwoman Marisel A. Hernandez said.

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Chicago Election Board officials were expected to speak on the upcoming Illinois primary Wednesday.

Hernandez urged residents not to wait until Election Day and vote early or vote by mail. She said the election board has stockpiled sanitizer and disinfectant wipes; they'll be available at early voting locations and polling places.

The board is also working to relocate 25 Election Day polling sites in 14 wards, some of which are in senior centers.

"The mayor and I have made lots of efforts to move polling stations out nursing homes and other senior facilities as best we can, so the public is traipsing in with potentially having been exposed to coronavirus," said Governor JB Pritzker.

Concerns about the COVID-19 virus may be having an impact on early voting in the 2020 Illinois primary. One week after Chicago election officials encouraged people to use vote by mail if they had health concerns, vote by mail has now hit near-record numbers.

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Alden Village North nursing home in Rogers Park was supposed to host a polling place, but it is being moved after visitor restrictions were put in place due to concerns about the virus. The situation has election officials planning to double up some precincts while they search for new locations.

"Looking at public spaces such as fire houses, maybe some additional high schools. We're pounding the pavement," said Hernandez.

With the vote by mail application deadline looming, at 5 p.m. Thursday, there is a push to extend it.

"We will be pushing the Chicago Board of Elections to extend the application period for vote by mail until Monday," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

"We don't know that it's feasible to try to process vote by mail applications on Monday. In fact I can tell you it's not practical," said Jim Allen, Spokesperson, Chicago Board of Elections.

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Joe Biden canceled a rally scheduled for Friday in Chicago. He will now hold a virtual rally instead. Other politicians are evaluating their plans for election nights.

State's Attorney Kim Foxx is now only planning a small party on election night, or perhaps just a news conference. Her chief rival Bill Conway is still planning a big party, but his campaign will reevaluate between now and next Tuesday.

The legislative session scheduled for next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday has been postponed due to COVID-19. Lawmakers will not return to Springfield until March 24.
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