According to Lance Gough, executive director of the Chicago Board of Elections, more than 500,000 city residents will likely apply to vote by mail by early October. Anything close to that would swamp the 118,000 mail applications the board received for the March primary election. In the 2016 general election, about 93,000 city voters cast their ballots by mail.
Combined with early voting sites the board is promising to maintain in each ward, the latest figures indicate a majority of ballots may be cast many days and even weeks before the actual election occurs. City turnout for the 2016 presidential race was 1.12 million voters.
The new figures help explain why political activity is occurring earlier and earlier this cycle. For instance, groups opposing and favoring Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax amendment, which will be on the Nov. 3 ballot, have been running TV ads for months now, with only a small break after the primary. I’d expect those trends to continue.
The shift to mail balloting will make election night itself less definitive. With mail ballots trickling in for as long as a week after Election Day, the outcome of many close races may not be known until well into the month.
Every active registered voter in the state automatically will get a mail-ballot application in the mail in late July, instead of having to secure one themselves, city Board of Elections site.
The board says it will notify voters by email when their application is processed, when the ballot is mailed and when it is returned to and counted by the board.