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Column

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Plan how you’ll exercise your right to vote

Rose Woosley is my kind of voter.

A retired Morgan County resident, Woosley emailed to discuss the mail-in ballot process. She also emailed state Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, with questions about Senate Bill 1863. (Consider this a friendly reminder to reach out to your own elected officials, they’re all just an email away.)

“This election will be the battle of all battles and we need to know what we should do,” Woosley wrote. “There’s a lot going on now, but throughout my lifetime there’s always been a lot going on … nothing is more important than voting!”

Absentee or mail-in voting has been growing in popularity in Illinois and nationwide —áhere the terms are interchangeable — but there’s extra attention now given public health questions unanswerable this far in advance. The ballots won’t be ready for quite some time either: the third-party candidate filing deadline is now July 20, and some jurisdictions can certify ballot questions into August.

I checked with clerks in three different Northern Illinois counties this week about plans for mail-in voting. All said they are considering an outdoor drop box for completed ballots. My suggestion is thinking of these less like a postal box and more like a place you might pay a water bill or traffic fine. If you’d trust the box with your money, would you trust it with your vote?

You can always submit a completed ballot in person during office hours, but don’t try to turn one in at a polling place on election day —áthat’s not something election judges are trained to manage. You can authorize another person to turn in your ballot (like a family member who might be running your errands) but for 55 cents your postal carrier can make it part of their appointed rounds.

There’s still plenty of time to register online or in person. You can request a mail-in ballot up through Oct. 29. Registered voters worried they might have lost a mail-in ballot can cast provisional ballots in person on election day, and clerks’ offices are prepared to help people who can’t make it into a polling place. The best way to get answers about a specific consideration is reaching out to a clerk, and while they’re generally helpful, please know they don’t yet have all the plans finalized.

One final note: for this year only, the state is allowing 16-year-olds to train and serve as election judges. Schools will be closed and judges earn $200. Most counties can always use more judges of any age —ácontact a clerk, political party chairperson or a precinct official for more information.

Be like Rose: believe in the power of your vote and plan ahead to exercise that right.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at [ mailto:sholland@shawmedia.com ]sholland@shawmedia.com.

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