Vote by mail: How to request a ballot for mail-in voting, and more

Election officials recommend requesting mail-in ballots no later than Oct. 13

ByRavi Baichwal and Jalyn Henderson, Jonathan Fagg WLS logo
Friday, September 18, 2020
Illinois mail in ballot: How to request a vote-by-mail ballot in IL amid COVID-19 pandemic
A step-by-step guide to requesting an Illinois mail-in ballot.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Both state and city officials are encouraging Illinois voters to consider requesting a mail-in ballot for this November's election.

Registered Illinois voters can request vote-by-mail through the mail or in-person. The first day to file an application for a mail-in ballot was June 16, and the Election Authority must have received all requests by mail by Oct. 29.

The application for vote-by-mail must be sent to the Election Authority for the jurisdiction in which you are registered.

All in-person requests must be made by Nov. 2. Additional provisions and requirements apply to members of the military and those living abroad.

To download the vote-by-mail application, visit


Map last updated 9/18/20

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

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, 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 Nov. 3 general election to come in through the post office. But they add that now is the time to request your mail-in ballot.

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President Trump opposes postal service aid to undercut voting by mail

"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 Sept. 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 Oct. 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.