The process of voting in any election cycle can be confusing, much less voting during a pandemic when safety concerns and changes in legislation are changing the landscape of voting in McHenry County and across the country.
Election Day is right around the corner and McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said it is crucial that eligible voters exercise their right to vote.
Voting on Election Day
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
This year, Election Day has been declared an Illinois state holiday known as 2020 General Election Day through the passing of Senate Bill 1863. This means that schools, state universities and certain government offices will be closed, with the exception of election authorities, polling places and municipalities.
In Illinois, polls will be open to voters on Election Day from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
McHenry County’s early voting period extends from Monday, Oct. 19, through Monday, Nov. 2, the day before Election Day, according to the McHenry County Clerk’s Office.
When voting early, voters are free to cast their ballots at any of the county’s 11 early voting locations and do not have to adhere to the site that is closest to their precinct.
Early voting will be offered at the following sites: McHenry Township Office, McHenry City Hall, the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills Village Hall, McHenry County Administration Building, Huntley Park District, Cary Area Library, Algonquin Library, Nunda Township Offices, Dunham Township Office and Marengo City Hall.
For a list of these locations and their hours of operation, go to shawurl.com/earlyvoting.
What are the best times to vote?
In general, the county’s early voting locations are busiest at the very beginning (Oct. 19) and the very end (Nov. 2) of the early voting period, Tirio said. Early voters who want to beat the lines should make a plan to go over the next few days.
Most polling places see the most people in the morning and toward the end of the workday, with a smaller rush around lunchtime. Tirio said the best time of day to avoid lines is in the late morning or late afternoon after the lunch hour. This goes for early voting as well as voting on Election Day.
Make a plan to vote
It is always a good idea for new and veteran voters alike to make a plan before they head to the polls to vote, Tirio said.
“It’s a good thing to do your research before you get to the [polls],” he said. “I’d encourage you to get a sample ballot, fill it out, and you can bring that into the polling place with you.”
Filling out a sample ballot gives voters the freedom to research candidates and complete their ballot even if they are choosing to vote in person, Tirio said.
For Election Day voting, Tirio recommended that voters look up their precinct location through the McHenry County Clerk’s Office website before heading out. A full list of voting locations is also available on the county clerk’s website.
While downloading a sample ballot is the best way to see the exact candidates that will be on your ballot, a full list of the candidates on McHenry County ballots for the Nov. 3 general election can be found on the clerk’s website as well as the referenda that will be on the ballot.
Looking to find out a bit more about our local McHenry County candidates? The Northwest Herald has conducted interviews with the candidates for County Board chairman, County Board seats in districts 1 to 3 as well as districts 5 to 6 and the race for county coroner.
Voting by mail
For those who may be voting by mail for the first time, Tirio said voters should read the instructions on the mail-in ballot in their entirety before filling out the ballot.
Vote-by-mail voters will receive their ballot along with an instruction sheet and an envelope to place the ballot in once it is completed, Tirio said.
Reading the instructions before filling out the ballot can help voters who may experience what he called “test anxiety,” that nervous feeling that can come with the gravity of fulfilling a civic duty like voting.
For a step-by-step visual guide on how to complete your mail-in ballot correctly, check out “How to fill out and send a mail-in ballot in Illinois,” an article by Shaw Media Illinois.
Once you have filled out your mail-in ballot and sealed it in the corresponding envelope, you can drop it in the mailbox or at your local post office, Tirio said. Vote-by-mail voters can also track their ballot through a service called Ballottrax so they can see exactly when it arrives at the county clerk’s office to be counted.
If you have applied for and received a mail-in ballot, you can still choose to surrender that ballot in order to vote in person early or on Election Day, Tirio said. To do this, voters must bring their mail-in ballot with them to the polls and give it to election officials before voting in person.
Ballot Drop Boxes
Tirio encouraged voters to make use of the five ballot drop boxes located across McHenry County, where mail-in ballots can be securely submitted as a way of bypassing the mailing process.
A 24-hour ballot drop box is located outside of the McHenry County Administration Building at 667 Ware Road in Woodstock. Smaller drop boxes are available during operating hours of four of the county’s other early voting locations: the McHenry Township Office, McHenry City Hall, the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake and Lake in the Hills Village Hall.
County residents choosing to vote by mail should try to get their ballots mailed out or dropped off as soon as possible to give the clerk’s office plenty of time to receive them, Tirio said. That said, all mail-in ballots that are postmarked or dropped off by Nov. 3 will be counted as long as they are received within 14 days of the election.
Residents are allowed to drop off ballots for family members by having their family member fill out an affidavit on the exterior envelope of their mail-in ballot, Tirio said. The affidavit asks the voter to fill in his or her name, the name of the person dropping off the ballot on their behalf and requires the voter’s signature.
Do I need an ID to vote?
In Illinois, no proof of identification is needed to vote early, on Election Day or to drop off a mail-in ballot, Tirio said.
The few exceptions to this rule are if the voter has not registered to vote and wishes to register in person on Election Day, if the voter wishes to file an address change or if the resident’s status as a registered voter is challenged by an election judge, according to the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
What if I am not registered to vote?
While the deadlines for registering to vote online or by mail have passed, residents can still register to vote in person at the McHenry County Administration Building at 667 Ware Road, Suite 107, in Woodstock, according to the county clerk’s website.
To register to vote in person, residents must come with two forms of ID, at least one of which must contain the resident’s current address, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Valid forms of identification include: passport or military ID, driver’s license or state ID card, college/university/school/work ID, vehicle registration card, lease, mortgage or deed to home, credit or debit card, Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid card, insurance card, civic, union or professional membership card, LINK/Public Aid/Department of Human Services card or Illinois FOID card.
To be eligible to register in Illinois, you must be a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years of age on Election Day and a resident of the precinct you are voting in for at least 30 days prior to Election Day.
To check whether you are registered to vote or not, go to the Illinois State Board of Elections website and click on the tab that says “Voter Registration Information.”
Still have questions?
To see answers to a list of frequently asked questions on voting, visit the McHenry County Clerk’s website and search for “Election FAQs.”
You can contact the clerk’s office directly at (815) 334-4242 or by emailing [email protected]
The McHenry County Republican Party and the McHenry County Democratic Party leaders are also available to respond to inquiries into partisan issues as well as nonpartisan voting questions.
Contact the McHenry County democrats at [email protected] or by calling (847) 906-1559.
The McHenry County GOP can be contacted through their website or via their Facebook page.