By Bill Lowe
2020 has been a year of firsts. We’re fast approaching another first — a presidential election during a global pandemic.
Many people I speak with are wondering how to balance the risk of COVID-19 with their civic duty to vote. Some are gung-ho about casting their ballot at the polling place; others question if their vote will count if they vote early or by mail.
Voting is a beacon of our democracy and we all should participate in our free election. In other countries, citizens walk for miles on end until they reach a polling place, or, they don’t receive the right to vote at all. It’s our duty to exercise our right to elect governing bodies.
But in the midst of a global pandemic, we all must weigh our options carefully when considering how to vote. For older adults, who can be at risk, this is especially true. At CMSS, we have many residents interested in voting, and we’ve been doing our best to help them make a plan. So I’ll share with you what we’ve been sharing with them. Here’s how to get started.
Step one: Ensure You’re Registered to Vote
The first thing I’d recommend is to register as soon as possible! The deadline to register online to vote in Illinois is Sunday, October 18, 2020. Illinois’ State Board of Elections makes this process incredibly simple. First, check to see if you are already registered at the link above. If you are not, the process of registering takes two minutes and can be done from a computer or smartphone.
You can also register to vote by mail with the Illinois voter registration form. Ensure that you read the instructions carefully. Then, send the completed form to your local election official. The form must be postmarked by Tuesday, October 6, 2020 in order to count.
Once that’s complete, you’re ready to move on to how you’ll vote.
Step two: Decide the Best Way to Vote
This year’s election is already seeing an interesting twist with many more voters considering voting by mail. Some are hesitant about this approach and others believe it’s the best way to prioritize safety during the pandemic. I’m an advocate for safety, especially when thinking about the risk of COVID-19.
If you plan to vote in person, Vote.org, is a great place to look to discover the polling place nearest your residence. CMSS’ Winwood Apartments previously served as a polling place, which we’re quite proud of, but this election we are not offering voting due to safety concerns. We hope to offer a polling place again in the future when a pandemic is no longer a threat.
If you plan to vote by mail, get started as soon as possible. Start by requesting your ballot through an organization like the U.S. Vote Foundation. Upon receiving your ballot, be extra careful to fill it out carefully and correctly. If you make mistakes, you will hurt your chances of having your vote counted. Make sure you have your mail postmarked in time, which you can check on deadlines for here.
If you don’t want to send it via USPS, most states allow you to drop off a mail-in ballot by hand at a designated drop-off location. This is often at the office of your local election official, or a ballot drop box. This year, CMSS residents interested in voting will be given mail-in ballots that they will fill out and then submit.
Step three: Research the Candidates
While often it’s easy to vote based on party lines, I’m a firm believer in knowing the candidates you’re voting for. Your vote impacts everything from the alderman, to the state treasurer, to the next POTUS. Vote411 offers you personalized election details based on your location. Simply put in your street address at the link above and get updates on candidates, upcoming debates, events and more. Becoming politically engaged isn’t easy work, but doing your due diligence on the candidates and topics will make you a more effective voter.