PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – Gov. Pritkzer signed Senate Bill 1863 and House Bill 2238 into law today, expanding residents abilities to vote by mail (VBM) for the 2020 general election.
The legislation gives all recent voters VBM applications and intends to promote safe civic participation in the election while COVID-19 persists. The legislation also makes election day a state holiday and expands voting hours at permanent polling places. Lastly, it improves the signature verification process to ensure election integrity.
“In the face of a pandemic, massive economic upheaval, and renewed calls for racial justice, it’s more important than ever that Illinoisans can hold accountable a truly representative and transparent government – and that means ensuring all eligible residents can wield their right to vote in a way that doesn’t risk their personal health,” said Pritzker. “Sending vote by mail applications to residents who have participated in recent elections will allow more people to exercise that right from the safety of their own homes and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”
Illinois State Board of Elections are now required by law to:
- Post an application for a vote by mail ballot on its website;
- Modify the online voter registration system to allow a new registrant to apply for a VBM ballot when completing the online registration;
- Provide notice to each election authority about what it must do to comply with the new law and;
- Adopt emergency rules to provide reimbursement for expenses related to the 2020 general election incurred as a result of COVID-19 and the new requirements.
Local election offices are now required to mail or email VBM ballot applications alongside the VBM timeline to voters who cast a ballot in the last two general elections, including those who changed addresses or registered after the primary election. Voters can receive their VBM ballot within 5 business days.
The legislation also made it more difficult to reject a VBM ballot. A bipartisan panel of three election judges must be appointed to verify signatures and ballot validity.
Permanent branch polling places are mandated to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Curb-side voting is permitted so that voters may fill out their ballot outside of the polling place. The bill also helps voters whom COVID-19 presents increased health risks by authorizing election authorities to establish additional early voting hours.
Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) sponsors the legislation. She said those who are eligible to vote should be able to do so safety and securely.
“No one should have to worry about jeopardizing their health to practice their civil duty,” Morrison said. “It is vital that no eligible voter — regardless of age or health — end up disenfranchised by the current health crisis. More voters will be able to participate in a very important aspect of their citizenry — their right to vote — because we have a plan in place to allow them to do so safely. We must be prepared, because we don’t know how safe it will be for people to be this fall.”
Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) is another sponsor of the legislation who fought for the legislation during the special session in May. She says VBM precautions are necessary for the 2020 general election.
“The COVID 19 pandemic has created many challenges, but participation in the November election should not be one of them,” Burke said. “Just as we have taken precautions to make shopping, traveling, and other everyday tasks safer, we must also take precautions and make adjustments to ensure everyone can safely exercise their right to vote.”
The laws go into place effective immediately.