Illinois voters may soon be getting an application in the mail to cast their ballot by mail in November. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 18-63 and House Bill 22-38 into law today to provide vote by mail applications to all recent voters in the state. The legislation also expands early voting hours at permanent polling places, raises the threshold on the signature verification process and makes election day a state holiday.
Under the new law, local election offices must mail or email vote by mail ballot applications and the vote-by-mail timeline to voters who cast a ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election or the 2020 general primary election, including voters who registered or changed addresses after the primary election this year. Voters who submit their application for a vote-by-mail ballot by October 1st will receive their ballot by October 6th.
The Illinois State Board of Elections all must post an application for vote-by-mail to its website, modify the online voter registration system to allow a new voter to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot when completing registration, and adopt emergency rules to provide reimbursement for expenses incurred by the upcoming general election as a result of COVID-19 and the new requirements.
The legislation raises the standard for rejecting a mail-in ballot. The election authority will be required to appoint a bipartisan panel of three election judges to verify voters’ signature and the validity of the ballot. Currently, only a single election judge makes this determination. Permanent branch polling places are required to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends and holidays. The legislation permits the use of curb-side voting, in which voters can fill out the ballot outside of the polling place. The bill also authorizes election authorities to establish additional early voting hours for voters whom COVID-19 presents increased health risks.
The legislation requires local election authorities to establish a central voting site where anyone who lives in the jurisdiction can vote, regardless of their precinct. Additionally, the bill makes election day a holiday for all government offices, except election authorities, k-12 schools, and post-secondary institutions governed by the State Universities Civil Service Act. The state has already established election day as a holiday for state employees.
House Bill 22-38 also requires collection boxes to be locked and opened only by election authorities. It also requires ISBE to establish additional guidelines for the security of these sites.
The new law takes effect immediately.