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Illinois governor signs legislation to expand voting by mail

It also expands early voting hours at permanent polling places and makes election day a state holiday
Credit: AP
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces that three more people have died in the state from from Covid-19 virus, two Illinois residents and one woman visiting from Florida, during a news conference Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation into law on Tuesday to provide vote by mail applications to all recent voters in the state.

He signed SB 1863 and HB 2238 to ensure “safe and active participation in the 2020 general election during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release.

The legislation also expands early voting hours at permanent polling places, improves the signature verification process and makes election day a state holiday, according to the release.

“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,” said Pritzker.

Local election officials must mail or email vote by mail ballot applications and the timeline to voters who cast a ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election or the 2020 general primary election. This also includes voters who registered or changed their addresses after the primary election.

Voters who submit their application for a vote by mail ballot by Oct. 1 will receive their ballot by Oct. 6.

The legislation requires the Illinois State Board of Elections to:

  • Post an application for a vote by mail ballot on its website;
  • Modify the online voter registration system to allow a new registrant to apply for a VBM ballot when completing the online registration;
  • Provide notice to each election authority about what it must do to comply with the new law and;
  • Adopt emergency rules to provide reimbursement for expenses related to the 2020 general election incurred as a result of COVID-19 and the new requirements.

The election authority will be required to appoint a panel of three election judges to verify voters’ signatures and the validity of the ballet, according to the release.

To prevent overcrowding on election day, expanding voting hours will ensure election authorities are able to comply with safety and health guidelines, the release said.

Permanent branch polling places are required to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Voters can also take part in curb-side voting by filling out the ballot outside of the polling place.

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