Massive Expansion Of Vote-By-Mail Approved In Illinois

WBBM Newsradio Staff
June 17, 2020 - 7:34 am
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a question after announcing a shelter in place order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, during a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

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SPRINGFIELD, ILL. (AP/WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Tuesday a pair of new laws in Springfield, which should make it easier to vote.

Among the effects of the two new bills is the designation of Nov. 3 as a state holiday in Illinois, meaning that all government offices will get the day off.

Pritzker also approved a massive expansion in voting by mail, a plan derided by Republicans nationally. 

Pritzker said allowing voters to mail in ballots for the November presidential election would limit polling place crowds and COVID-19 transmission. Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, have argued it opens the door to fraud.

The law requires that vote-by-mail applications be sent to every voter who voted through the mail for any election since 2018. Any voter that submits a vote-by-mail application by Oct. 1 should receive a ballot by Oct. 6. Additionally, Illinois online voter registration systems will be modified to allow individuals registering to vote to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot at the same time.

Ballots need not be mailed, but could be placed in drop-boxes outside local election authorities. A second bill Pritzker signed Tuesday requires those boxes to be locked.

Democrats set aside about $17 million, mostly in federal COVID-19 relief funds, to be provided to local authorities to finance the system. Republicans say it will cost far more than that and its price could bust some county government budgets.

If you prefer to vote in person, the new Illinois law also expands early voting hours, requiring permanent branch polling places to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends and holidays. Curbside voting will also be permitted, allowing voters to fill out a ballot outside of a polling place if they choose to do so.

"In the face of a pandemic, massive economic upheaval, and renewed calls for racial justice, it's more important than ever that Illinoisans can hold accountable a truly representative and transparent government—and that means ensuring all eligible residents can wield their right to vote in a way that doesn't risk their personal health," Pritzker said in a statement.

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The bills are SB1863 and HB2238.

(WBBM Newsradio and The Associated Press contributed to this copy. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)