Maybe you haven’t heard—if you remain blissfully free of Facebook, television ads and opinionated friends—but there’s a primary election going on. The campaign comes to Illinois on Tuesday, March 17, so you’re going to need both a little “I Voted” bracelet/sticker AND something green if you want to avoid the judgment of your peers in a couple of weeks.
You may be wondering about the specifics, however—what all is on the ballot? (it’s more than just the presidential primary), can I vote early? (yes!), by mail? (yes!!), where do I go? (we have answers). To help make voting go smoothly, LoganSquarist has put together this brief guide. Read on below to help make doing your civic duty as painless as possible. Then, you’ll truly earn that pint of green beer.
What Are We Voting For?
To find out what’s on your ballot, you can visit sites like BallotReady or this Illinois Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters of Illinois. You can also visit Chicago’s Board of Elections site, for a comprehensive list of your voter information, including a sample ballot. (It’ll also show you your voting status, polling place and current public officials.)
You’ll get the same info on the ballot at each place. Here are the basics: This is a primary election, so you’ll be selecting candidates — in your declared party — for the November 2020 general election. (You can declare at your voting site.) That’s why the above sites will ask for your party registration, because that will determine which slate of candidates you’re choosing from in the primary. That includes candidates for national, state and local offices.
President: Nationally, of course, the big one is the presidential election. If you’re a Democrat, sample ballots currently (as of March 1) list eight active candidates (though that includes Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg, who just dropped out). Some of the withdrawn candidates may still appear on the ballot, but votes for them will not count — though, of course, your Michael Bennet protest vote may mean a lot to you personally. Should you lean to the right, there’s also technically a presidential primary on for Republicans, with the incumbent Commander in Chief facing Roque De La Fuente, who created his own party for the 2016 election.
National representatives: You’ll also be voting for a U.S. Senator (Dick Durbin running unopposed for the Democrats, with five candidates vying for the Republican nomination) and Congressional Representative (in each Illinois district). For example, in my area, incumbent Rep. Chuy “Jesus” Garcia is running unopposed on the Democratic side, while the only Republican candidate passed away after registering for the ballot.
State: On the state level, every district will be voting for State Representative (in mine, incumbent Will Guzzardi is running unopposed for the Democrats, with no one running for the Republicans).
Local and judges: There are also local elections. Chicago will pick candidates for Cook County Circuit Court Clerk, Cook County State’s Attorney and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board. The position of Democratic committeeperson will also be on the ballot in 17 wards, including the Logan area 26th Ward and 1st Ward, where Alderman Daniel La Spata is running a write-in campaign, as is Lauren Young; Jay Ramirez is also running. You’ll also see a slew of judge elections.
Need to learn more about the candidates? Start here, with WTTW’s 2-minute interviews with candidates looking to represent Chicagoans.
Unsure about voting for judges? This guide shares evaluations by bar associations and media outlets. The Chicago Bar Association also has a guide, in which they rate candidates as highly recommended, qualified or not recommended.
Who Can Vote?
You must be 18 years old by or on the date of the general election, Nov. 3. That means you can be 17 and still vote in the primary, as long as you’ll turn the big 1-8 by Nov. 3.
You must also be a U.S. citizen, with only one voting address.
While you’ll vote for only the candidates in one party, given that this is a primary election, you do not have to register with any party in advance of the primary election. Illinois voters state their party affiliation at the polling place, making ours an open-primary state.
Am I Registered/Can I Register?
Check registration: You can check that you’re registered at the Chicago Board of Elections here. Just fill in your information.
Grace period registration: If you’re not registered, you can still get that done in time for the primary election. “Grace period” registration began Feb. 19 and continues through March 16, the Monday before the election. Unfortunately, online voter registration for the primary ended March 1, but you can still register in person at any of the grace period spots — see here for a list. You’ll need two pieces of identification, with your current address on at least one.
Same-day registration: Finally, Illinois allows same-day registration, so you can register to vote on election day — but only at your designated polling place. If you’re unregistered and need to find your proper polling place, go here and enter your birthday or address. Again, you’ll need to bring two pieces of ID, one showing your address, to the polling site to register.
When Can I Vote?
On Election Day, March 17, you can vote only at your designated polling precinct (find that here). Polling sites are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. (As long as you’re in line by 7 p.m., you’ll be allowed to vote.)
You can also vote early. Starting Monday, March 2, and continuing until Monday, March 16, you can vote early at ANY of 52 early voting sites. (From March 19 to March 1, early voting was open at the downtown Loop “Super Center,” but, depending on when ballots were ready, you may have been given a mail-in vote.) Find a complete list of early voting sites here. (See below for early voting sites closest to Logan Square.)
They’re open various hours, depending on the date, between March 2 and 16. For instance, sites will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on March 2-7 and from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, March 15. Six “permanent sites” will be open until 7 p.m. on March 16. See the above link for specific times.
You can also vote by mail. File for a mail-in ballot here. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is March 12, and all mail-in ballots must be postmarked by March 16. The Election Board will provide you a postage-paid envelope to return your ballot. If you apply and don’t get your ballot, you can call 312-269-7967 on or before March 12, use early voting, or cancel your ballot and vote in person on the official polling day of March 17.
Where Do I Vote?
If you’re voting early, you can use any of the 52 designated sites. Some sites may be closer to your work or where you go to read “Little Women” at a shelter, but here are the closest sites to Logan Square, for those looking to handle this nearer to home:
- Ward 32 Bucktown-Wicker Park Library 1701 N. Milwaukee Ave.
- Ward 35 NEIU El Centro 3390 N. Avondale Ave.
- Ward 26 Humboldt Park Library 1605 N. Troy St.
And, depending on where you live in Logan, or nearby, these other ward sites may work better for you:
- Ward 1 Goldblatt’s Building 1615 W. Chicago Ave.
- Ward 33 McFetridge Sports Center 3843 N. California Ave.
- Ward 31 Portage Cragin Library 5108 W. Belmont Ave.
How Do I Vote?
Check out this handy video from the Chicago Board of Elections for instructions on using voting machines – and answers to other voting questions you may have.
Some of the most important voting-machine info: If you vote early, you will vote using a touch-screen machine. You can take in any notes with you to help you make your vote — this isn’t an exam! You’ll insert your voter card, arrow-up. After you’ve made your selections, you’ll print your ballot, place it in a privacy sleeve, remove your card and take your ballot to a scanner.
On Election Day, you can use either a touch-screen machine or a paper ballot. On paper, you’ll fill in ovals using a pen. You can still take notes into the voting booth. Follow the instructions on the number of candidates to fill in (just one in most cases, but some may ask for more). If you make a mistake on your ballot, you can go to an election judge, ask to “spoil” your ballot and get a new one.
After you fill out a paper ballot, you’ll place it in a privacy sleeve and take it to a scanner. If the machine rejects your ballot, you can ask the poll attendants to accept your ballot as is or you can fill out a new one.
The Board of Elections says you probably won’t need your ID, but that having it with you can help if there are questions about your address or signature. If you have more questions, you can call the board at 312-269-7900 or visit chicagoelections.gov.
If you’re curious about other things — such as if you can vote if you’ve committed a felony crime (yes, if you’ve completed your sentence) or are a college student from out of town (yes, if you’re not registered elsewhere) — check out our previous guide to the 2018 election. It’s also got answers about accessibility and whether you can take a selfie in the voting booth (nope!).
Happy voting, and good luck!
This article was updated to include information on the local Democratic committeeperson races.
Featured image: “Just voted!” Primary Day, 2016. Photo: Peter Nelson