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Illinois Declares Election Day A State Holiday

By Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz

Illinois Declares Election Day A State Holiday

The initiative aims to boost voter turnout by making mail voting easier and declaring Nov 3 a state holiday.

This past Tuesday, Jun 16, governor JB Pritzker signed two new laws aimed at ensuring the safe and active participation of voters in the upcoming general election. The most notable effect comes with the declaration of Nov 3 an official state holiday for all government employees with the exception of election authorities, k-12 schools, and post-secondary institutions.

So, what are some other major changes brought on by the new legislation? Here’s the full breakdown:

  • Nov 3 is now an official state holiday for all government employees with the exception of election authorities, k-12 schools, and post-secondary institutions. Many businesses are expected to follow suit.
  • Local election offices must now mail or email vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot  applications and the VBM timeline to all voters who participated in recent elections. Voters who submit their vote-by-mail application by Oct 1 to receive their ballots by Oct 6.
  • To improve the signature verification process,  election authorities will now be required to appoint a bipartisan panel of three election judges to verify voters’ signature and the validity of the ballot–previously only one judge was used.
  •  Early voting hours at permanent polling places will be expanded in order to prevent overcrowding at the stations during election day. Permanent branch polling places will be required to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends and holidays.
  • Curbside voting will be available for those voters who wish to fill out the ballot without entering the polling place.
  • The legislation also requires local election authorities to establish a central voting site where anyone who lives in the jurisdiction can vote, regardless of their precinct.

All laws take effect immediately and government officials hope these changes will encourage voters to take advantage of the mail voting system and early voting in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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“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 governor Pritzker in his most recent press release.

[Featured image via Shutterstock]