Legislation that would allow voters to cast ballots in person before Election Day without having to provide a reason unanimously passed the Illinois Senate today, said Cook County Clerk David Orr.
“Early voting will make casting ballots more convenient for the elderly and voters who have busy workday schedules,” said Orr, who promoted the bill (SB 1697) sponsored by State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills). “In addition it will help take pressure off polling places on Election Day and result in shorter lines.”
Currently, 23 states allow no-excuse, in-person absentee voting. Under the Illinois bill, early voting would be conducted at the election authority’s primary office beginning 22 days before the election, and local election officials are encouraged to offer extended hours and alternative sites.
Under current Illinois law, registered voters are eligible to cast an absentee ballot in person or by mail only if they are unable to make it to their polling place on Election Day.
Senate lawmakers also approved legislation (SB 1696) that would permit voters who registered by mail to vote absentee the first time they cast a ballot. Since passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), Illinois remains one of the few states that continues to bar these voters from voting absentee by mail even though election officials verify their identities. This restriction disenfranchises many college students, disabled voters, and “snowbirds.”
In addition, SB 1696 enables people who change their names to vote. State law currently prohibits election authorities from counting ballots cast by voters who change their names without re-registering to vote. This primarily disenfranchises women who have changed their last name because of marriage or divorce. The proposal is modeled after legislation in place in several states that permit such voters to cast ballots if they complete a legal affidavit in the polling place. The affidavit is forwarded to the election authority, which updates the voter’s registration record.