Editorial: As options increase, don't put off early voting
For some people, there's something magical about the holiday atmosphere of voting at the polls on Election Day. Much like Christmas shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, the experience can be crowded and time consuming and there are plenty of alternatives, but it's a special experience with its own unique appeal. If you're one of those voters and you just can't forgo that excitement this year, that's understandable. But be prepared to keep six feet away from others in line and, for goodness' sake and the health of others, especially the election judges putting themselves at risk, wear a mask.
If, however, you want to use extra precautions this pandemic year and take advantage of one of the many alternatives, heed the advice of county clerks around the suburbs: Don't procrastinate.
Election officials have been repeating that mantra since early voting locations first started opening and mail-in ballots began going out on Sept. 24. When the theme arose again in a story from our Lauren Rohr marking the expansion Monday of early voting sites, DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek was referring specifically to in-person voting.
"Typically, lines become longer at early voting closer to Election Day. If a voter intends to go to an early voting site, the sooner the better," Kaczmarek said in a prepared statement.
But the prodding is just as urgent, if not more so, when it comes to voting by mail. By law, you can apply for a mail ballot as late as Thursday, Oct. 29, but to presume that anything but an unforeseeable emergency would justify the hope of turning around a ballot in time for a postmark five days later is a leap of faith no reasonable person would recommend. Indeed, with Election Day a week and a half away, voters planning to use mail ballots are best served by getting them in the mailbox or putting them in drop boxes at early-voting polling places as soon as possible -- making sure to strictly follow all instructions to the letter, including properly signing and sealing the envelopes.
As for in-person voters, more than 50 sites are set up in suburban Cook County. Lake County has 17, McHenry 11, Will 24 and Kane seven permanent sites, with eight alternatives and various mobile locations. County clerks in all those counties have additional information at their websites, and you can find still more about locations and voting hours at the Illinois State Board of Elections website.
Maybe you're one who is willing, even eager, to put up with the lines, extra safety measures and additional time demands in order to get that special Election Day feeling. If so, may the experience be all you hope it will be. But if you're willing to let that slide this year and still want your voice heard at the ballot box, you have abundant options. Just don't wait too long to take advantage of them.