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Election Day Will Be ‘Memorable And Historic’ …But Officials Are Worried People Still Won’t Vote

About 38,000 people still need to send in vote-by-mail ballots, and the Election Board is worried their voices won't be heard on Election Day.

A polling place on Election Day.
Kelly Bauer/Block Club Chicago
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THE LOOP — Chicago is in the midst of a historic election with 14 mayoral candidates in a race that, for only the fourth time in the last 100 years, has no incumbent running.

And though early voter turnout has been high, Election Board Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said she has concerns about vote-by-mail turnout in this “memorable and historic” election. The ballot will ask voters to decide in three citywide races — mayor, city clerk and city treasurer — and on an alderman.

“Chicago has never had an election like this,” and may never see one like it again, Hernandez said during a Monday news conference.

Early voting is higher than normal with almost 100,000 early voting ballots cast as of Monday morning. That surpasses the early voting turnout from the 2011 election, where 73,000 early votes were case, and 2015 election, where almost 90,000 early votes were cast.

There’s also 160,000 more voters registered than there were in 2015, she said.

But that doesn’t mean people don’t need to head to the polls on Tuesday. Hernandez said people shouldn’t wait until an expected runoff in April to vote or their favored candidates won’t make it, adding that she doesn’t want to see a “razor-thin margin” between second- and third-place candidates just because people thought they didn’t have to vote until April.

Hernandez said she’s concerned by the roughly 38,000 vote-by-mail ballots that haven’t been turned in yet. About 25,000 vote-by-mail ballots have come in so far.

Hernandez said she’s unsure why there are so many ballots that are outstanding and is worried those voters won’t have their voices heard. Those who had planned to vote by mail should send the ballots in no later than Tuesday morning and should make sure the ballot is postmarked, she said.

If that’s not possible, those who had intended to vote by mail can instead vote in person at their polling place. Early voting sites are open Monday to everyone, but voters have to head to their designated polling spot if they vote on Election Day.

“You need to make your voices heard and express who will be the top two candidates” in any of the races, Hernandez said. “We all need to vote to have our voices heard.”

One plus to this election, Hernandez said: The ballot will feature few races, meaning many early voters are only taking a minute or two to fill it out and finish. That’s kept lines moving fast at polling places.

“This is a short ballot with a big impact on Chicago’s future,” Hernandez said.

Chi.Vote: Everything You Need To Vote On Feb. 26

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