CHICAGO — The huge surge in mail-in votes shouldn’t greatly slow down election results in Chicago, officials said Monday.
More than 738,000 ballots have already been cast through mail-in and early voting, obliterating the city’s records. More ballots are expected to roll in Monday and Tuesday, which is officially Election Day.
And while there have been concerns about delayed results because of mail-in voting or about unrest due to the divisive nature of this election, officials said things have been quiet and going as normal in Chicago.
“We’re expecting that this election night will be no different than past election nights,” Marisel Hernandez, chair of the Chicago Board of Elections, said at a Monday morning news conference.
If you’re voting on Election Day, you can look up your polling place online. If you want to drop off a mail-in ballot on Tuesday, here’s a list of where you can bring it. There will not be drop boxes at people’s home precinct polling places.
The polls are open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. — but so long as you are in line to vote by 7 p.m., you will be able to wait and cast your ballot, Hernandez said.
The Board of Elections has a full Voters’ Bill of Rights on its website. If you have any issues with voting — like if someone tries to intimidate you or stop you from casting a ballot — you can contact the board at 312-269-7870.
People with questions and concerns can also call the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights at 866-687-8683.
Counting Votes And Results
The Board of Elections will have a full staff of 13,500 election judges come Tuesday, and all polling places are expected to open on time, Hernandez said.
“There’s always a handful that may not open up on time for one reason or another, and we’ll deal with those as they come along,” Hernandez said.
Officials have been processing — though not counting — mail-in ballots since the board started receiving them in early October, Hernandez said. More than 401,000 mail-in ballots and 336,000 early ballots have been cast so far.
Once the polls close at 7 p.m., officials will start to count all of the ballots that have come in, Hernandez said. They’ll merge ballots that came in through mail-in and early voting with ballots cast at precinct polling places Tuesday, and all will be reported together.
Of the roughly 401,000 mail-in ballots that have come in so far and had their signatures approved, about 250,000 have had their ballots extracted and scanned. That means they’ll be able to be counted immediately.
But the board will continue to open envelopes and extract ballots through Tuesday, meaning more mail-in ballots could be counted immediately once the polls close.
When To Expect Results
The board’s website will transform at 7:30 p.m., with a focus on showing results. The board expects to start reporting results on the site by 8 p.m., Hernandez said.
The website will be periodically updated with results after that time.
“We have historically had 90 percent of the results in by 10 p.m., and we’re hoping to do the same for this election,” Hernandez said.
Vote-by-mail ballots will continue to come in and be counted for up to 14 days after the election, but about 80 percent of all possible mail-in ballots have already come in.
All early voting sites and Election Day voting sites have taken or will take coronavirus safety measures, like requiring poll workers and voters to wear mask and keeping people 6 feet apart.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday there will be a heightened police presence throughout Chicago all this week to ensure voters feel safe and to deal with potential unrest.
The plan has been criticized by some who fear police presence can intimidate some voters or could lead to incidents being escalated.
Through Sunday, there will be more officers on patrol; officers will be in their uniforms and will have lights flashing on their cars; 60-300 large city vehicles, like garbage trucks and snow plows, will protect commercial strips and businesses; and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication will “monitor any activities and crowds,” according to the Mayor’s Office.
Hernandez said the board has not yet received reports of any voter intimidation, and officials are working with agencies they typically do — like the Chicago Police Department and FBI — to prepare.
“It has been fairly quiet,” Hernandez said Monday. “We have not received complaints or advisories of impending action at any of our polling places … . We have been working with [federal and local authorities] to make sure there are no threats and what we need to do in the event any contingency arises. So we feel very prepared.”
Supt. David Brown said Friday the Police Department has run exercises to prepare for various scenarios — be it bad weather or coronavirus outbreaks — and has received no “intelligence” of any potential incidents that could arise during the week.
Lightfoot did not directly say officers wouldn’t interfere in potential protests, but she said the Police Department will support people who are expressing their First Amendment rights — though she repeatedly said Chicagoans should be “peaceful.”
Already, some businesses around the Downtown area have put up plywood to protect their windows and doors in case of potential unrest.
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