Illinois residents can now sign up to always get a mail-in ballot
Illinois voters have been able to vote by mail for more than a decade, but now the state is letting them register to always use that option.
In the past, residents needed to submit an application for a mail-in ballot for each individual election, but now they can avoid that by filing an application for permanent vote-by-mail status with their local election authority.
“It’s a recognition of the increased use of vote by mail in Illinois,” said Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections.
The state sent letters to registered voters in Illinois in August informing them of the permanent vote-by-mail option as part of legislation signed into law in 2021, Dietrich said. The change doesn’t mean Illinois will automatically send ballots to every voter, like in other states, he added.
“If you know you’re going to vote by mail from here on in, if you would like, you can put in a standing request, and you’ll always get your ballot mailed to you when ballots are mailed out,” Dietrich said.
Residents who prefer to vote in person, either early or on Election Day, will still be able to, he said. Residents who receive a mail-in ballot but decide they’d like to vote in person can do so, they just need to bring the mail-in ballot to their election authority and have it voided before voting on an in-person ballot, Dietrich explained.
The permanent vote-by-mail option comes after the 2020 general election during the height of the coronavirus pandemic when many more people across the country and Illinois chose to vote early or by mail. One-third of the 6 million statewide votes in Illinois in 2020 were cast by mail, Dietrich said.
“2020 changed everything,” he said. “In the wake of that, the general assembly believed many voters would continue voting by mail and it would be beneficial to make it more convenient for them.”
The state doesn’t have official numbers on the sign-ups yet, but Dietrich said he has heard from local clerks that the option is popular.
“A lot of voters are opting to go vote by mail from here on in,” he said.
Eric Schmid covers economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.