Illinois Election Code allows any voter to apply to receive a ballot by mail – no excuse is needed to do so. Illinois also allows voters to apply to receive a ballot every election through its Permanent Vote by Mail Program (10 ILCS 5/19-2). No voter will receive a ballot through the mail without first completing an application. Voters can complete an election specific application, meaning a ballot will be issued for the current election only, or voters can complete a permanent application, meaning a vote by mail ballot will be mailed for all elections going forward. Once an application has been received and the voter has been verified by the Election Commission, a vote by mail packet is assembled. This packet includes the ballot, specific to the voter, a secrecy envelope, a purple return envelope (specific to the voter and the election) and a white outer envelope. Printed on the purple return envelope is the voter’s name, mailing address, and a unique identifier. This unique identifier is linked to the voter and the ballot packet and is used upon return for validation.
Illinois Election Code allows vote by mail ballots to be returned through the mail or via a Drop Box (10 ILCS 5/19-6; 5/19-8). Ballots received in the mail must be postmarked by election day and can be accepted up to 14 days after the election if postmarked by election day (10 ILCS 5/19-8).
Ballots received in the mail without a postmark after election day, but prior to the 14 days after an election, will be counted if the signature certification date on the envelope falls on or before election day. If the voter failed to add a date on the signature certification and the ballot is received in the mail after election day without a postmark, then the ballot will not be counted (10 ILCS 5/19-8).
Ballots returned via a Drop Box must be inserted into a drop box prior to the closing of polls at 7 pm on Election Day. Peoria County has three convenient drop box locations (located at the Peoria County Election Commission Office, North Branch Library, and the Peoria Civic Center). These three Ballot Drop Box locations are camera monitored. The Drop Boxes are accessible 24 hours per day for Peoria County residents only. Drop Boxes provide voters with a safe and secure alternative to sending completed Vote by Mail ballots through the mail. Keep in mind that a voter can authorize another individual to drop off their ballot through completing the authorized delivery agent affidavit on the purple return envelope (10 ILCS 5/19-6).
Note that Ballot Drop Boxes are collected daily by a bi-partisan team of poll workers and returned to the Peoria County Election Commission. Keyed locks are used to prevent unauthorized access to Ballot Drop Boxes. Tamper-evident seals are also fastened over Drop Box collection doors as an added security measure. Logs are kept for each Drop Box location notating time of collection, seal numbers, and number of ballots collected.
Once a vote by mail ballot is returned, the validation process is completed by a bi-partisan team of trained poll workers. This team of poll workers completes the signature verification process by comparing the signature on file with the signature captured on the purple return envelope. The signature on file was captured at the time of registration. If both judges agree the signatures match, the secrecy envelope containing the ballot will be removed and staged for tabulation. If the judges do not agree the signatures match or if the return envelope is unsigned, the voter is notified of the challenge and given the opportunity to overturn the challenge by providing identification for verification.
If a voter receives a vote by mail ballot but would rather vote in-person for whatever reason, then the voter must surrender the vote by mail ballot to the election judges at the polling place. If they do not have the ballot to surrender, then they must vote provisionally. This provisional vote allows the Election Commission to ensure that no vote by mail ballot is received by this voter.