State Expands Vote By Mail, Early Voting Hours For 2020 Election

State Expands Vote By Mail, Early Voting Hours For 2020 Election

The state of Illinois has passed legislation to provide vote-by-mail applications to all recent voters in Illinois.

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

In signing SB 1863 and HB 2238 into law on Tuesday (June 16, 2020), Gov. JB Pritzker said sending vote-by-mail applications to residents who have participated in recent elections “will allow more people to exercise that right from the safety of their own homes and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Under the new law, local election offices must mail or email vote-by-mail ballot applications and the VBM timeline to voters who cast a ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election or the 2020 general primary election, including voters who registered or changed addresses after the primary election.

Voters who submit their application for a VBM ballot by Oct. 1 will receive their VBM 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.

To improve the signature verification process, the legislation raises the standard for rejecting a VBM ballot. The election authority will be required to appoint a bipartisan panel of three election judges to verify voters’ signature and the validity of the ballot. Presently, only a single election judge makes this determination.In an effort to prevent overcrowding at the polls on election day,

According to the news release, expanding early voting hours will help ensure election authorities are able to comply with the Illinois Department of Health safety and health guidance.

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 the weekends and holidays.

The legislation permits the use of curb-side voting, in which voters can fill out the ballot outside of the polling place. The bill also authorizes election authorities to establish additional early voting hours for voters whom COVID-19 presents increased health risks.

The legislation requires local election authorities to establish a central voting site where anyone who lives in the jurisdiction can vote, regardless of their precinct.

Additionally, the bill makes election day a holiday for all government offices, except election authorities, k-12 schools, and post-secondary institutions governed by the State Universities Civil Service Act. The state has already established election day as a holiday for state employees.

The trailer bill, HB 2238, would require collection boxes to be locked and opened only by election authorities. It also requires ISBE to establish additional guidelines for the security of these sites.

State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), assistant majority leader and Senate Democratic Women’s Caucus chairwoman, applauded the legislation.

“With our current public health situation, many people feel uncertain about the prospect of having to vote in person,” she said. “We just marked the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, which boosted participation in elections. Now if we can provide safety and comfort to anyone with an at-risk condition to be able to vote by mail, it will be another step forward in increasing voter turnout so everyone can make their voice heard.”

The new laws take effect immediately.

SOURCE: state of Illinois news release

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