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updated: 8/1/2014 5:21 AM

Campaigns working to get people to vote early, by mail

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  • Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, left, is running for re-election against Republican Bruce Rauner.

      Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, left, is running for re-election against Republican Bruce Rauner.

 
 

Labor Day, the unofficial opening of campaign season, is still a month away, but one new and potentially big strategy in politicians' campaigns for votes starts next week.

Wednesday -- about 90 days before Election Day -- is the first day eager voters can start requesting ballots to vote by mail.

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They won't get their ballots immediately and can't vote yet. That comes later, in early October.

But Wednesday gives the campaigns their first chance to try to get you to vote, something they'll be working on for the next three months.

The 2014 election is the first big one in Illinois where you don't have to have an excuse to vote by mail, and the big campaigns in the suburbs are well aware of that.

Getting people to vote by mail will be a strategy in the North suburban 10th Congressional District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider's campaign manager notes that in 2012 Schneider was trailing Republican Bob Dold in the voting until early votes were counted.

"Now that voting by mail has made voting easier, we expect that it will encompass a larger part of our voter contact work," campaign manager Jamie Patton said. "This past weekend alone, our volunteers knocked on thousands of doors to have conversations with voters about re-electing Rep. Schneider and voting by mail."

Dold's campaign, preparing for a chance to return to Congress in a nationally watched contest, also has noticed.

Spokeswoman Danielle Hagen said people "are eager to cast their vote for Bob Dold, and our team is working diligently to help provide any voting information needed to ensure their voices are heard in this election."

The campaigns for Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner are paying attention, too.

After all, turnout in elections when there's no vote for president tends to be down. So if campaigns can target voters who don't usually go to the polls for nonpresidential elections, they could perhaps drive more of their supporters to cast votes.

Of course, we won't know for a while if Illinoisans are really that interested in voting by mail. There's always the chance someone will ask for a ballot Wednesday and forget about it when it eventually arrives, mixed in with the bevy of electioneering mailers that will stuff mailboxes soon.

Quinn campaign adviser Carrie Glenn said they'll specifically look for people who voted in 2012 but not 2010. Glenn said they will be able to track who has taken ballots -- and later turned them in -- to know who might need an extra reminder.

"It's our job to make sure they have the information and the access," Glenn said.

Rauner's camp says they'll be encouraging people to vote early, too.

Why?

DuPage County Election Commission Executive Director Bob Saar says he expects the by-mail option will be popular because of campaigns' efforts.

"This election will be the first real test of open, no-excuse vote by mail," Saar said.

Early birds

Saar says he already has had some requests for mail ballots. But those early bird requests won't be lost. They'll just go into the queue Wednesday.

What if?

If you request a ballot by mail and never turn it in, you can cast a provisional ballot on Election Day and still be counted.

The normal warnings about voting early apply. If you vote weeks early, you run the risk of learning something unsettling about your candidate of choice before Election Day. And there are no takebacks.

Duckworth keynote

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, will keynote the big party brunch before the Democrats' day at the Illinois State Fair on Aug. 13. Republicans preside over the fair the following day and will announce plans soon.

Challenges ahead

State Sen. Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican, visited the Daily Herald Editorial Board this week, and we asked her what she thought of Rauner's plan to freeze local property taxes as part of his budget plan.

She called it a complex question -- as many tax questions are -- and suggested the grand plans of either candidate for governor could be tougher to make work in practice than on paper.

"I just don't think it's going to be as clear cut as Bruce would like it to be," Althoff said.

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