A League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford article for the Register Star‘s opinion page published Sunday, September 12, 2020.
August marked the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote. On Feb. 14, 1920, even before the amendment’s ratification, leaders of the suffrage movement established the League of Women Voters of the United States to prepare women for their responsibilities as members of the voting public.
Today, the League continues to educate the public on important issues and to encourage civic engagement. What follows is nonpartisan information to prepare voters for the coming election.
More detailed information is available from an election authority. For Rockford city residents the election authority is the Rockford City Board of Elections (voterockford.com); for Winnebago County, it’s the Winnebago County Clerk’s Office (winnebagocountyclerk.com); for Boone County it’s the Boone County Clerk’s Office (boonecountyil.org). On election authority websites, voters can check their registration status, find their polling place, and request a vote-by-mail ballot. Some websites allow voters to track the progress of a vote-by-mail ballot.
A person must be registered to vote. Any U.S. citizen born on or before Nov. 3, 2002, can register to vote. If there has been a name and/or address change, one must register again.
Register online at ova.elections.il.gov. Some election authority websites also have links for online registration. To register online, a person needs an Illinois driver’s license or a state ID. The deadline for online registration is Oct. 18.
To register in person at events with qualified deputy registrars, one needs two forms of identification, both showing the person’s name and one showing the current address. Naturalized citizens also need the date and place (city and court) of naturalization. In-person registration ends Oct. 6.
Grace period registration runs from Oct. 7 to Nov. 3 at election offices only (check with the office for times). For grace period registration, one must have lived at the same address for 30 days prior to the election. The same two forms of ID as for in-person registration are required. During the grace period, people must register and vote the same day.
Voters have three voting options: vote by mail, early voting, and Election Day voting at the assigned polling place.
Worried about health risks of voting during a pandemic or concerned about possible disruptions to the voting process? Consider voting by mail. Illinois is a no-excuse vote-by-mail state; any registered voter can vote by mail. Applications for a vote-by-mail ballot were sent to registered voters who voted in the past two years. If a registered voter did not receive one, a person can still request an application for a vote-by-mail ballot from the election authority until Oct. 29.
Starting Sept. 24, vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed to those who requested them. Completed ballots must be returned by Election Day. Ballots returned by mail need to be postmarked by Nov. 3. Ballots can also be returned in-person to the voter’s election office. Both the city of Rockford (301 S. Sixth St., Rockford) and Winnebago County (404 Elm St., Rockford) will have outside drop boxes. Ballots dropped into a drop box must arrive by 7 p.m. on Election Day
Early voting runs from Sept. 24 through Nov. 2. People can vote on weekdays and some weekends at their appropriate election office. From Oct. 19 through Nov. 2, Rockford will also have an off-site voting location at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 412 N. Church St. (use entrance on Park Street). Once the off-site location opens, people can grace period register and vote there. Early voting times vary. Check with the appropriate election office for specific times.
People can cast a ballot the traditional way by voting at their polling place on Nov. 3. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. If the voter’s name does not appear on the polling roster, one can still register and vote at their polling place on Election Day.
The League encourages people to consider their voting options, weigh their risks, and make a plan and a backup plan for voting. After ballots are finalized, the Illinois League’s website, illinoisvoterguide.org, will provide candidate information for every state race. The League also plans to schedule local candidate forums. Finally, the League urges voters to make their voices heard and VOTE.
The League of Women Voters Greater Rockford is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. Membership is open to men and women age 18 and older. For further information, visit lwvgr.org and like us on Facebook.