Vote by mail: IL mail-in ballot concerns arise for November election amid USPS issues

Election officials recommend requesting mail-in ballots no later than October 13
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Election Day is less than three months away and some Illinois officials are sounding the alarm about the post office and the integrity of votes.

Some say ongoing problems with the U.S. Postal Service could hamper those looking to vote by mail.

This comes as the Postmaster-General Louis Dejoy agreed to testify before Congress next Monday to answer questions about overtime cuts and changed work rules.

RELATED: Lawmakers to speak out about Postal Service crisis

In Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blasted President Trump, who she claims is at the center of the problem.

"This is real folks. This is not an exaggeration, it is not a conspiracy theory," Lightfoot said. "Every day, unfortunately, we see increasing evidence this administration is mounting a full out assault on every pillar of our democracy including the integrity of our elections."

The mayor spoke out at an online roundtable ahead of the Democratic convention that kicks off Monday night, saying the Trump Administration's recent changes to postal operations are designed to discourage mail-in voting. Those changes include reducing overtime and moving massive mail sorting machines. This tactic is something she says the president fears will cost him the election.

"Because of the failure of this administration to keep American safe from COVID-19, we are wisely encouraging people to vote by mail," Lightfoot said.

State and city election officials say they are expecting record mail-in voting this year after dramatic increases four years ago and at the 2018 midterms.

The state elections board is forecasting at least one in eight votes for the November 3 general election to come in through the post office. But they add that now is the time to request your mail-in ballot.

"If you get your ballot and now you will be among the first of the voters who get those actual ballots when they start going out. You'll be able to mark your ballot and get it back into the mail or drop into a secure dropbox," said Illinois State Board of Elections Spokesperson Matt Dietrich.

Ballots are expected to be mailed to those requesting them starting September 24.

However, earlier this summer the post office told election officials their operating standards won't necessarily meet Illinois laws governing how much time a voter is supposed to have to request and then mail in their vote. As a result, Chicago election officials say October 13 is the latest you should request a mail-in ballot.

Early in-person voting will also begin the following day.

If you're in doubt of getting your ballot submitted in time, they said you will also have the option to drop it off at a polling station.

"They will have to put it in our secure envelopes, sign and date the envelope [and] there will be a board person there who will date and time stamp the envelope and make sure you signed it and dated it and will drop it in the secure drop box," said Chicago Board of Elections Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez.

So far, the state says 700,000 applications for mail-in ballots have already been received, with a quarter-million of those from Chicago alone. To put that in perspective, the 2018 mid-terms had 430,000 total mail-in ballot requests statewide, which was a record.
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