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Voter Guide 2020: Everything you need to know about the election in Missouri and Illinois

From where to vote, how to vote and election deadlines, we're answering your questions about the 2020 General Election
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. LOUIS — The general election is on Nov. 3, and it will be an election like none before it. This voter guide for both Missouri and Ilinois is your resource for more than just information on candidates and issues.

Here you'll find information that will:   

  • Build trust in the voting process
  • Hold those responsible accountable
  • Explain how to register to vote and the deadlines you need to know.
  • How to vote in your state
  • How voting will be tallied
  • Vote total timing expectations
  • Status of polling locations & workers
  • Tracking elections results. 

Important Dates

Missouri 

  • General Election: Nov. 3
  • Early Voting: Absentee only, beginning Sept. 22
  • Voter Registration Deadline: Oct. 7, 2020. You can register online here
  • Deadline to request an Absentee Ballot by mail or fax: Oct. 21
  • The deadline to request an Absentee Ballot in person is Nov. 2.
  • Deadline to return completed Absentee Ballot: Nov. 3

Illinois

  • General Election: Nov. 3
  • Early Voting: Starts Sept. 24
  • Voter Registration Deadline: In-person or by mail by Oct. 6 or online by Oct. 18. You can register online here
  • Absentee Ballots: Anyone registered voter in Illinois can request a ballot without an excuse. The deadline to apply by mail or online is Oct. 29; the deadline to apply in person is Nov. 2.
  • Deadline to Return Completed Absentee Ballot: Nov. 3

Voter Registration

Am I Registered To Vote?
If you recently moved to the St. Louis area or you haven't voted in several years, both Missouri and Illinois provide easy online access to check to see if you're registered.

How To Register To Vote
If you are not registered in either Missouri or Illinois, you may register to vote easily online. Just make sure you pay attention to the deadline dates listed above.

Where Do I Vote

Your polling place is based on the address you used to register to vote. Both Missouri and Illinois have portals where you can type in your address and find your polling location.


Understanding Absentee Ballots

Can I vote by absentee ballot?

Registered Missourians who expect to be prevented from going to their polling place on Election Day may vote absentee beginning six weeks prior to an election.

Absentee voters must provide one of the following reasons for voting absentee:

  1. Absence on Election Day from the jurisdiction of the election authority in which such voter is registered to vote;
  2. Incapacity or confinement due to illness or physical disability, including a person who is primarily responsible for the physical care of a person who is incapacitated or confined due to illness or disability;
  3. Religious belief or practice;
  4. Employment as an election authority, as a member of an election authority, or by an election authority at a location other than such voter's polling place;
  5. Incarceration, provided all qualifications for voting are retained.
  6. Certified participation in the address confidentiality program established under sections 589.660 to 589.681 because of safety concerns.
  7. For an election that occurs during the year 2020, the voter has contracted or is in an at-risk category for contracting or transmitting severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19).

Voters who are considered at-risk for contracting or transmitting COVID-19 are those who:

  • Are 65 years of age or older;
  • Live in a long-term care facility licensed under Chapter 198, RSMo.;
  • Have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
  • Have serious heart conditions;
  • Are immunocompromised;
  • Have diabetes;
  • Have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis; or
  • Have liver disease.
    More Information 


In Illinois, any registered voter can request a ballot without an excuse. The deadline to apply by mail or online is Oct. 29; the deadline to apply in person is Nov. 2.

USPS recommends that absentee voters should be mailing their ballots a full week before the due date, or there are no guarantees it’ll arrive on time.

Elections officials want voters to know that voting absentee doesn't require you to mail in your ballot, though. Voters can drop their ballots off in person.

Understanding Mail-In Ballots

How early do I need to request a mail-in ballot? 

In part due to the pandemic, political scientists believe there will be an increase in ballots cast by mail this year.

Missouri 
Mail-in ballot requests that are sent by mail must be received by the election authority no later than 5:00 p.m. on the second Wednesday prior to any election. Voters requesting a mail-in ballot by mail who have registered by mail and have not voted in person are required to submit a copy of their personal identification unless they provided a copy with their registration application.

Mail-in ballots must be returned by mail in the provided envelope, with the statement on the envelope signed and witnessed by a notary. In order to be counted, mail-in ballots must be received by the election authority at or before the time fixed by law for the closing of the polls on Election Day (7:00 p.m.).

Some voters do not need to get their ballots notarized, including:

  • Those who are confined because of an illness or disability or because they are caring for someone confined with an illness or disability.
  • Those who have COVID-19 or are at high risk for contracting the virus.

Defined by the Missouri Secretary of State, “high risk” for COVID-19 includes those who:

  • Are 65 years of age or older;
  • Live in a long-term care facility licensed under Chapter 198, RSMo.;
  • Have chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
  • Have serious heart conditions;
  • Are immunocompromised;
  • Have diabetes;
  • Have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis; or
  • Have liver disease.

Military and overseas voters should consult the section entitled Military and Overseas Voters for information on obtaining and submitting their ballots.

Illinois
Voting by mail is an option for voters to cast their ballot prior to Election Day. Voters can request a vote by mail ballot through the mail or in person.

The first day to file an application for a vote by mail ballot with the Election Authority is 6/16/2020.

All requests by mail must be received by the Election Authority by Oct. 29.

All in-person early voting requests must be made by Nov. 2.

Each Vote Counted ... Once

After internet memes and even the president suggested people vote by mail and then go vote in person, many people wondered: is it that easy to vote twice?

Unlike your favorite TV competition show, you cannot vote as many times as you want in an election, and there are systems in place to make sure of that.

On Election Day, polling places use electronic poll books to check who has voted, ensuring once you've signed in, you cannot come back and vote again. (The poll books are kept for the duration of the election, so if you vote early in person, it will still show you've already voted if you come back another day.) 

If you request to vote by mail, the poll books show that, too.

So if you go try to vote at a polling place, poll workers look you up and see that you already have that mail ballot, meaning, you should have already voted.

“There’s only one ballot per person so once that's ballot's checked in we can't receive another ballot from that voter, so there are a lot of safeguards in place with that entire process,” said Eric Fey, St. Louis County Democratic Director of Elections.

Request a ballot by mail but now you want to vote in person? Maybe you forgot to drop it in the mail, or plans just changed?

You can bring that ballot with you to a polling place, and surrender it. That one will not be counted; instead, you will get a new ballot to vote in person.

If you lost your ballot, or for some reason never got it, the election board can check the system to confirm your vote has not been counted yet, then give you an affidavit and a new ballot.

How about trying to vote in person just to be sure your mailed-vote counted?

“If you go to a polling place, it will be logged as such, you won't be able to vote again, so it's just really not a productive undertaking to try that,” said Fey, who instead recommends calling the election board or using your jurisdiction’s online vote tracker if they have one well ahead of Election Day.

Is It Illegal To Vote Twice?

Earlier this month, President Trump encouraged voters in North Carolina to attempt to vote twice — both by mail and in-person — as a way to test the system. Voting twice is a felony in North Carolina.

Later, Trump slightly walked back those comments, tweeting that people who vote early by mail should show up at polling places and vote again if their ballots haven’t been counted.

Fey did not go so far as to say whether or not the president and these internet memes are suggesting committing fraud. Instead, Fey said he believes the systems are in place to prevent that from being an issue.

"You're just going to be holding up the lines for everybody else who needs to vote," he said.

In Missouri, it is illegal to vote twice. According to statute 115.175, "Any person who knowingly or willfully gives any false information for the purpose of establishing his eligibility to register to vote or who conspires with another p, erson for the purpose of encouraging his false registration or illegal vote, or who pays or offers to pay, accepts or offers to accept payment for registering to vote or for voting, or who otherwise willfully and fraudulently furnishes false information to a registration official for the purpose of causing a false or fictitious registration, or who registers to vote with the intention of voting more than once in the same election shall be guilty of a class one election offense."

Voting twice is also illegal in Illinois, according to statute 10 ILCS 5/29-5, which states: "Voting more than once. Any person who, having voted once, knowingly during any election where the ballot or machine lists any of the same candidates and issues listed on the ballot or machine previously used for voting by that person, (a) files an application to vote in the same or another polling place, or (b) accepts a ballot or enters a voting machine (except to legally give assistance pursuant to the provisions of this Code), shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony; however, if a person has delivered a ballot or ballots to an election authority as a vote by mail voter and due to a change of circumstances is able to and does vote in the precinct of his residence on election day, shall not be deemed to be in violation of this Code."

What Is On The Ballot

Sample ballots can also be viewed at the polling place or at the office of your local election authority. Sample ballots are also required to be printed twice prior to each election in newspapers of general circulation. Some election jurisdictions may also mail sample ballots to all registered voters in that jurisdiction.

Who Is On The Ballot?

Missouri

Governor

Lt. Governor

Attorney General

Secretary of State

Treasurer

Missouri's 1st Congressional District

Missouri's 2nd Congressional District

General election for St. Louis City Circuit Attorney

St. Louis County Executive

Illinois

United States Senate election in Illinois, 2020

Illinois 13th Congressional District

Get real-time election results for the 2020 Missouri Elections. KSDK 5 On Your Side is watching the numbers to decide dozens of local races as well as Propositions voters will be deciding. Download the KSDK app to get alerts when races are called by texting APP to 314-444-5125.