Illinois adds mail-in ballot option for March primaries

Marshall Cohen


For the first time in a presidential primary election, all Illinois voters are eligible to vote by mail, according to a news release issued Friday by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

“In the past, you needed an absentee excuse to vote by mail,” Orr said in the release. “All voters are now eligible for a mail ballot, bringing one more convenient option for participating in the democratic process.”

A law approving no-excuse mail voting was passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2009 and implemented in the 2010 gubernatorial election and in municipal races last year. Previously, voters wishing to obtain a mail-in ballot had to provide election officials with a reason they could not make it to a polling place, such as being disabled or being on vacation.

“I encourage every interested voter to request a mail ballot long before the March 15 deadline to make sure there is enough time for delivery,” Orr said in the statement.

Illinois is one of more than 25 states that allow no-excuse absentee voting. Two states – Oregon and Washington – have vote-by-mail elections, where all voters mail in ballots instead of casting votes at a traditional polling place.

“It does make things more convenient,” said Daniel HoSang, a political science professor at the University of Oregon. “The Oregon experience has shown that people as a whole were able to make the transition without too much conflict.”

However, not everyone agrees no-excuse absentee voting is a step in the right direction.

“I think this is a recipe for disaster,” said Blair Garber, the Evanston committeeman for the Cook County Republican Party. “A system where you never need to see a human being in order to register and cast a vote seems like a system that would be rather ripe for fraud.”

Orr spokesman Courtney Greve said there were “no issues” in 2010 and 2011. She said the Cook County clerk was unavailable for comment due to the federal holiday Monday.

Voters in suburban Cook County may download an application online, call the clerk’s office to request a ballot or can pick one up in person at one of the six regional offices. Applications are available in English, Spanish, Hindi and Chinese.

The primary election will be held March 20. Ballots must be postmarked by no later than March 19 in order to be counted, according to the news release.

[email protected]

Graphic by Kris Anne Bonifacio/Daily senior staffer