Voting by Mail: A Step by Step Guide

Voting by Mail: A Step by Step Guide


This guide is specific to Chicago voters. 

Who Can Vote by Mail?

Any registered voter.

Applications were automatically sent to those who voted by mail in any of the last four elections or those who registered to vote after March 17, 2020.

How Do I Apply for a Mail-In Ballot?

You can apply online or by mail.

Only one application is processed for each voter. If an additional application is received for a voter, it will not be processed.

If you provided an email address when you registered to vote or requested a mail-in ballot, you will receive an email reporting that the application has been received. 

If you did not provide an email address, you can check on the status of your application.

When Will I Receive My Mail-In Ballot?

Ballots will be sent in late September. You should receive yours after September 24.

How Do I Do It?

Fill in the ballot using a blue or black pen.

Place your completed ballot in the envelope provided.

Seal the envelope and sign your name on the back, where indicated. Your signature will be compared to the signature you provided when you registered to vote.

When and How Should I Return My Ballot?

You have several options.

Drop Boxes

You may return the completed ballot to a secure drop box at any of the Early Voting sites. To guard against voter fraud, staff at the Early Voting site will check to make sure the ballot envelope has been signed. Staff also will remove ballots from each drop box every evening and follow strict chain-of-custody procedures.

You may authorize another person to carry your ballot to an Early Voting site and place it in the drop box. You must do so by filling out the form on the back of the ballot envelope. 

One person who has been authorized to deliver completed mail-in ballots may return a maximum of 10 ballots.

Postal Service Mail Boxes

You may place your completed mail-in ballot in a USPS mailbox. 

The envelope must be postmarked or time-stamped on or before Election Day, November 3. Although postal service representatives have placed a priority on handling mail-in ballots and are confident the ballots will be delivered to local election boards promptly, they nevertheless recommend that you place your ballot in a USPS mailbox by October 15 to be sure your ballot is received in plenty of time for processing and tabulating in election results.

How Do I Know My Ballot Was Received?

An online tracking number will be issued as soon as the mail-in ballot is sent. You will be notified when the completed ballot is received. You will be contacted by elections officials if there is a problem with the ballot. 

What If I Change My Mind?

If you already submitted your mail-in ballot, you cannot retract it. 

If you still have your mail-in ballot but don’t want to complete it, you may turn in the ballot at an Early Voting site or in your precinct on Election Day. The mail-in ballot will be voided, and you will be allowed to vote in person on a new ballot

What If I Don’t Get My Mail-in Ballot?

If you requested but did not receive a mail-in ballot, you will be allowed to vote at an Early Voting site or on Election Day with a provisional ballot. This provisional ballot will be counted as long as the mail-in ballot is not received by the Board of Elections by the November 17 deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots.

What Happens to My Mail-In Ballot?

Mail-in ballots are reviewed by a panel of three judges. The judges compare the signature on the ballot envelope to the voter’s registration signature to guard against fraud. All three judges must agree on any disparity between signatures to disqualify the ballot.

Mail-in ballots that have been qualified by the judges are scanned. The information from this ballot scanning is stored and consolidated with the election results from the voter’s precinct AFTER the polls close on Election Day.

Mail-in ballots received after Election Day are validated and scanned. This information will be consolidated with the Election Day information to produce the final totals. Final totals are reported 14 days after Election Day.

Still have questions? Send us an email at league [at]





League to which this content belongs: