CHICAGO — Chicago has already broken its record for early voting with just less than a week to go before Election Day.
More than 335,000 voters have returned mail-in ballots and another 237,000 have turned up at one the city’s 51 early voting locations thus far, bringing the running total of votes already cast to more than 573,000 as of Tuesday night, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.
Chicagoans are on pace to cast 750,000 early ballots in 2020, shattering the record of roughly 400,000 set in 2016, board Commissioner Marisel Hernandez said during a Tuesday budget hearing with aldermen.
Early voting and voting by mail has seen a huge uptick nationally as people look to avoid Election Day crowds due to the coronavirus pandemic. Local officials have heavily encouraged people to vote early or cast a ballot through the mail.
On Nov. 3, which is Election Day, Chicago’s 2,029 electoral precincts will be served by 1,400 polling locations staffed with 13,500 election judges, said Lance Gough, the board’s outgoing executive director.
“Dozens” of those locations had to be switched due to the coronavirus pandemic as private companies declined to provide their space for voting over safety concerns, leaving the Board of Elections to shift polling places to municipal buildings, including schools.
The Tribune reported Tuesday the board is still trying to find polling locations for seven precincts.
Gough said the elections boards has received 60 percent of the mail-in ballots that were sent out, and officials are in “really good shape” to provide election results Tuesday.
The board does not anticipate security concerns on Election Day but has met with the Police Department and other city agencies for “tabletop exercises” to make plans just in case, Gough said.
Next year, the board’s members will handle petition filings for future elections and shift the city’s election plans to accommodate the increase in early voting, with plans to open three early voting locations in every ward.
They’ll also shift their focus to the redrawing of ward boundaries following the 2020 Census. The board is budgeted for two positions to work on legislative redistricting, but the work is heavily influenced by City Council.
Asked if the new ward maps will be ready in time for the 2023 municipal elections, Gough said that will be decided by City Council.
“Whatever the City Council wants, we’ll do it,” he said.
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