What To Know Before You Vote In Chicago’s Runoff Elections
If you’ve never voted in a runoff election in Chicago before, or even if you’re an old pro, WBEZ has compiled a list of helpful hints and reminders to help you on Election Day.
- The polls are open Tuesday, April 2 from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Look up your address here to find out where your polling place is. (Even if you think you know, double check because 18 polling locations changed since February!)
- You can still register at the polls on Election Day, just be sure to bring two forms of ID, at least one of which shows your current address.
- The ballot is super short. Voters will have to make a choice in no more than three races: mayor, treasurer, and — if you live in one of 15 wards — local alderman.
- How do you know if you live in one of the 15 wards with an aldermanic runoff? Look up your address here to find out. The same search will tell you where to go to vote on Election Day. Take a peek at the sample ballot and get a list of all your elected representatives and their contact information.
- Your choices for mayor are: Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle. The winner will make history no matter what because she will be the city’s first black woman to hold the office of mayor. If you can’t decide, read about their positions on key issues, explore a timeline of their careers, and listen to WBEZ’s audio profiles: Who is Lori Lightfoot? Who is Toni Preckwinkle?
- The ballot will ask you to pick the city’s next money man — or woman. Your choices for city treasurer are: Melissa Conyears-Ervin and Ameya Pawar. In an interview on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, Conyears-Ervin talked about doing an independent analysis of the city’s finances, while Pawar explained why he wants the city to start a public bank.
- You can’t write in Mickey Mouse for mayor. There are no write-ins allowed during a runoff election, because it’s a tiebreaker between the top two candidates. Chicago moved to a runoff system in 1999, which did away with partisan primaries and instead aimed to pick a winner through two rounds of voting. If a candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round, they’re declared the winner outright. This year, that was the case for City Clerk Anna Valencia and 35 aldermen. Write-ins during a tiebreaker race could again lead to nobody getting 50 percent plus one.
- About one-sixth of all Chicagoans are expected to vote. Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, said turnout is expected to be around 35 percent. But that’s out of the roughly half of all Chicagoans who are registered voters. According to Hernandez, about 1.59 million people are registered to vote in Chicago, which is higher than in the last city election in 2015. She attributed the increase to the November 2018 midterms. But the elections board has no way to know why only a fraction of the people who register actually cast a ballot.
- Voting by mail is becoming more popular, especially among young voters. But if you’re going this route, follow the directions carefully. In February, elections officials say 2,060 mail-in ballots were not counted. Most were postmarked too late or the voter forgot to sign the envelope. (If you’re married or have roommates, make sure to sign your ballot, not theirs!)
- If you filled out your vote-by-mail ballot, but it’s still sitting on your kitchen table, drop it off downtown on the 6th floor of the county building (69 W. Washington) or hustle to your local post office before they close on Election Day to ensure it’s postmarked by April 2.
- If you applied to vote by mail and still find yourself staring at a blank vote-by-mail ballot, you can still vote in person. Bring the blank ballot to your local polling place, hand it over to the election judges, and you will get a different ballot to cast in person. If you lost the mail-in ballot or never got it, you will be asked to sign an affidavit saying you did not already cast your vote. Voting “early and often” is not just Chicago folklore. It is a felony.
- See any funny business at the polls? You have rights as a voter, and if those rights are violated, you should call 312-269-7870 to report it. The Board of Elections will have investigators and poll watchers out across the city.
Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. You can follow her @beckyvevea.