October 19, 2020

Maroon Voter Guide: Mail-In Ballots

The Maroon has Hyde Park and UChicago voters covered with information on Election 2020.

The Maroon has Hyde Park and UChicago voters covered with information on Election 2020.

Pranathi Posa / The Chicago Maroon

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, applications for mail-in ballots have surged across the United States. In the state of Illinois, more than two million mail-in ballots have been requested, shattering previous records. So how do you actually mail your ballot in?

What is Mail-In Voting?

The push for mail-in voting is an effort to limit unnecessary social interaction and the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day. However, in the state of Illinois, mail-in voting has completely replaced “absentee” voting since the 2016 presidential election. According to Matt Dietrich, a representative at the Illinois Board of Elections, mail-in voting has been extended as a “convenience to all voters” since 2010. “The process itself is not new for this year, the only thing that's new for this year is that we really emphasized it to give people a way of voting where they don't have to be exposed to any other people if they are concerned about COVID,” Dietrich said.

What are the steps?

  1. Apply for a mail in ballot by October 29, using this application provided by the Chicago Board of Elections.
  2. Await notification from the Chicago Board of Elections on your application status, as well as information on when your ballot has been mailed.
  3. Carefully follow the directions on the ballot to fill it out.
  4. Ship your ballot by November 3 and drop it off at one of the two secure mailboxes in Hyde Park. If you are planning on shipping your ballot within two weeks of November 3, officials recommend that you drop off your ballot at a secure drop off point instead. This will ensure that your vote is counted.

Requesting the Ballot:

Anyone registered to vote in Chicago can request a mail-in ballot from the Chicago Board of Elections.

If you have concerns about your ballot not arriving on time, call (312) 269-7967 by October 29 to speak with the Elections Board. If necessary, it is possible to cancel a mail-in ballot and vote in person on November 3. If you wish to vote in person and have not canceled your mail-in ballot, you must bring your mail-in ballot to the polling center on Election Day.

If your mail-in ballot has not arrived in time and you wish to vote in person, on Election Day you must sign an affidavit at the polling site stating that the ballot was lost.

Common Mail-In Ballot Mistakes:

The most common mistake voters make while filling out a ballot is forgetting to apply their signature. In Chicago, voters are required to sign and date their Ballot Return Envelope. In 2016, 20 percent of rejected ballots were due to the omission of a signature.

Dietrich warned that any so called “naked ballots” will be voided. Any ballot that is not placed in the secure envelope, or is improperly sealed, will not be counted. According to Dietrich, “the open envelope or improperly sealed envelope is probably the biggest reason for a rejection, because those ballots can’t be cured, those ballots have to be rejected because they may have been tampered with.”

Finally, it is necessary to use a black, blue, or felt pen to fill out the ballot. The use of a red pen will invalidate your ballot as it will not be able to be scanned by the machine.

Where can you drop off your ballot in Hyde Park?

If you decide not to send your mail-in ballot through the postal system, you can drop it off at any of the secure ballot drop off points in Chicago. Here are two secure drop off points near the University of Chicago campus where students can turn in their mail-in ballots:


Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave.


Monday–Friday: 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m.

Saturday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Election Day, November 3: 6 a.m.–7 p.m.


Fiske Elementary School, 6020 S. Langley Ave.


Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Election Day, November 3: 6 a.m.–7 p.m.

Clarification on Oct. 20, 2020, 4:04 p.m. CDT:

Updated article to note that voters are required to sign and date their Ballot Return Envelope.