FAQs to Help Make Sure Your Vote Counts!

(Updated. Previously posted September 30, 2020)


Your vote has never been more important! That’s why we want you to understand all of your options for making sure your vote counts. Questions? You can call the Democratic Voter Assistance Hotline, 847-432-VOTE (8683). But first please click on any of our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to find out more about voting this year.

1. How can I vote?

You can vote from home with a mail-in ballot or you can vote in person during Early Voting or on Election Day.

2. When and where can I vote?

If you’ve chosen to vote from home, you can return your mail in ballot right now. Starting on October 19, you can vote in person at any Early Voting polling place in your county; and some courthouses in both Lake and Cook are already open for Early Voting. You also can vote in person on Election Day, November 3, at your assigned polling place.

3. What if I’m not registered to vote or not sure I’m registered in Illinois?

To find out whether you’re registered to vote in Illinois, go to IL Registration Lookup. Or call the Democratic Voter Assistance Hotline, 847-432-VOTE (8683), and a volunteer will check for you. If you’re eligible to vote, you can register online at IL Online Voter Application until midnight on October 18. From now through Election Day, you can also register at your County Clerk’s office during business hours, or at any other place you can vote, but you’ll have to vote at the same time you register.

4. How do I get a mail-in ballot?

If you are a registered voter, you can request a ballot by submitting an “application.” You can do that wholly online or by returning a paper application. If you live in Lake County, go to LakeVoterPower.info. If you live in Cook County, go to Apply for Cook Mail-in Ballot.

5. What is the deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot?

You can submit the application to request a mail-in ballot up until 5:00 pm on October 29, 2020, but we strongly recommend you do so right away. The earlier you request your ballot, the earlier you can return it, and the more time you’ll have to make sure everything is in order.

6. How can I make sure my application for a mail-in ballot was received?

If you live in Lake County, go to LakeVoterPower.info, and after filling in the form, click the button, “Track My Mail Ballot.” If you live in Cook County, click “What Is My Mail Ballot Status?” at Your Cook Voter Info, and fill in the form.

7. When can I expect to receive my mail-in ballot?

If your ballot did not go out on September 24, your County Clerk must mail your ballot to you within two business days of receiving your application.

8. How do I record my votes on my mail-in ballot?

Your mail-in ballot will look just like the ballot you get when you vote in person:

  • Fill in the oval next to the candidate of your choice on the ballot using a regular pen with black or dark blue ink. No sharpies, please, as they may “bleed” through. In Lake County, the Democratic candidates will be listed second, below the Republicans. In Cook County, Democrats are listed first.
  • Make sure you turn the ballot over and vote for all the Democrats up and down the ballot.
  • The first item on your ballot calls for a YES or NO vote on the constitutional amendment that would authorize the Fair Tax. Those in favor of a “YES” vote on the Fair Tax amendment include AARP, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Personal PAC (a leading pro-choice group), and Governor JB Pritzker.
  • On the Lake County ballot, we recommend a “NO” vote on retention of judges. The four judges up for retention ran as Republicans. The ballot does not show their party when they’re up for retention. If they are not retained, when their terms end Democrats could run against them.
  • For resources to learn about the many judges on the Cook County ballot, go to voteforjudges.org.
  • The last item on the back of the Lake County ballot asks whether to abolish the office of Recorder of Deeds, and we recommend a “YES” vote. The Democratic Lake County Clerk and the Democratic Lake County Recorder of Deeds both favor merging these two offices so that taxpayers benefit from efficiencies.
9. Once I’ve recorded my votes, what do I do with my mail-in ballot?

When you receive your mail-in ballot, you will find enclosed envelope(s)—one if you live in Cook County and two if you live in Lake County. One of the two Lake County envelopes will be preprinted with the address of the County Clerk. That’s the mailing envelope. The other will be preprinted with your name and address a signature line preceded by an x. That’s the certification envelope. In Cook County, a single envelope is printed with all these elements: the County Clerk’s mailing address, your name and address, and the signature line for certification. When you’ve finished voting:

  • Refold the ballot, place it in the certification envelope, and seal it.
  • Sign your name on the line next to the x on the certification envelope. Your signature is how the election officials know that you are you, just like when you go to the polls.
  • If you live in Lake County, insert the sealed certification envelope that has your ballot inside into the mailing envelope and seal the mailing envelope.
10. How do I return my mail-in ballot to the County Clerk, and what’s the deadline?

You can return your ballot to your County Clerk’s office one of three ways—you can hand-deliver it during normal business hours, mail it (Cook County’s envelope is postage-free; Lake’s takes a first class stamp), or place it in a secure drop box. No matter how you return your ballot, the deadline for the County Clerk to receive it is 7:00 pm on Election Day, November 3—with one exception: Any mailed ballot postmarked by November 3 will be accepted until November 17. For obvious reasons, we encourage you to return your ballot as soon as possible.

11. How do I find a secure drop box?

You can put your mail-in ballot in any drop box in your county. All Early Voting locations in Cook and Lake Counties will have drop boxes available starting October 19 at 8:30 am. There are will also some secure drop boxes accessible 24/7 in both counties. Election officials will transport ballots from drop boxes to the County Clerk’s office daily. You can find the exact locations and hours of these postage-free secure drop boxes in your county here:

Lake County: Secure Drop Boxes in Lake.
Cook County: Secure Drop Boxes in Cook.

12. How will I know my mail-in ballot was received and will be counted?

You can track your mail-in ballot online. If you live in Lake County, go to LakeVoterPower.info, and after filling in the form, click “Track My Mail Ballot.” If you live in Cook County, go to Your Cook Voter Info, click the button, “What Is My Mail Ballot Status?” and fill in the form. When your ballot is received, the County Clerk has two days to notify you if there’s a problem with the ballot and to give you the opportunity to correct the problem.

13. When will my mail-in ballot be counted?

Most mail-in ballots will be counted on Election Night along with early votes and votes cast in person on Election Day. To be sure your mail-in vote is counted on Election Night, you should either put it in a drop box, hand-deliver it by November 2, or mail it a week or more before that.

14. What if I got a mail-in ballot to vote from home but decide I’d rather vote in person?

Requesting a mail-in ballot won’t obligate you to vote from home. It just gives you the option. If you’d rather go to the polls, just bring your mail-in ballot and the certification envelope that came with it (or any parts you can find) to your polling place, turn them in to an Election Judge, and request a regular ballot to vote then and there. It’s that easy! But having that ballot in hand ensures that if you decide you’d rather not leave home, or for some reason you can’t get to a polling place, you can still vote.

15. Where can I vote in person?

From October 19-November 1, you can vote at any Early Voting location in your county. Locations and hours for Lake County are at Early Voting Locations in Lake. Locations and hours for Cook County are at Early Voting Locations in Cook. On November 3, you can vote at your assigned polling place from 6:00 am until 7:00 pm. To find your assigned polling place, Lake County voters can go to LakeVoterPower.info and Cook County voters can go to Your Cook Voter Info, and fill in the form.

More questions? Call the Democratic Voter Assistance Hotline at 847-432-VOTE (8683).

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