Worried About Voting? Here’s What You Need To Know

By Steph Whiteside

Election day is looming and we’ve gotten questions through our Ask The Newsroom project about things that could go wrong on election day. Here’s what you can do if you run into trouble while voting.

Video: Busting myths about voting in Illinois

What if I forgot to register to vote by the deadline?

Don’t panic — you still have time! Illinois has a grace-period registration that continues until  election day so you can still register. BUT you’ll have to do it in person, instead of by mail or online, and you’ll need to go to a site designated by your local election authority. Check with your local county clerk’s office to find out when and where you can register after the official deadline.

The poll worker is saying I’m not registered — what do I do?

If you know you registered to vote, take a deep breath and stay calm — you still have options.

First thing’s first: Make sure the poll worker is spelling your name correctly. If not, the poll worker may be looking for your name in the wrong place. It’s totally cool to double-check that they’re understanding you.

If they still can’t find you, give the poll worker your address. You may not be at the right polling place, or maybe you’re in the right place but the wrong room. The poll workers should be able to figure out where you need to cast your ballot.

If they still can’t find you, ask the poll worker to call your county’s election office. They can look you up, and have access to more information than your local worker.

If the county doesn’t have you listed, you can do a grace period registration. This is available through election day, but only at specific sites designated by your county, so you may have to go to a different location. This option works if you forgot to update your voter registration after moving or changing your name. For this option you will need to have ID. You’ll get a regular ballot, and it will count just the same as if you’d registered in advance.

If you can’t make it to the designated grace period site, then you can request a provisional ballot from your polling place. You will have to sign an affidavit that states the reason you’re requesting the ballot, and it will not be counted until after the county’s election authority has verified you are eligible to vote. This will not happen until after election day. You can check the status of your provisional ballot at the state board of elections site.

If you are refused a provisional ballot or believe that you are being prevented from voting in some way, you should call your county election authority directly.

The poll worker says I need ID, is that true?

Maybe.

If you are a first-time Illinois voter and you registered to vote by mail or online and did not provide proof of ID, then you will need to bring a form of ID to your polling place to vote. If you forget, you can still ask for a provisional ballot, but it will not be counted until the election authority can verify your ID.

Acceptable forms of ID include a drivers license showing your current address, utility bill, paycheck, government check, bank statement, or other form of government correspondence showing your name and address. Students may use a student ID along with a piece of mail sent to their address.

You will also need an ID if you are registering to vote on election day.

For all other voters, ID is not required. Contact your local election authority for clarification and to report that you have been asked for ID.

What if I requested a mail-in ballot but want to vote in person instead?

That depends on why you want to vote in person.

If you have received and filled out your ballot but forgot to mail it by the deadline, you can return it in person at your local polling place.

If you did not receive the ballot you requested, you can sign an affidavit stating that information and vote at your local polling place.

If you mailed your ballot back but it has not been received by the election authority, you can sign an affidavit attesting to that fact and vote at your local polling place.

If you received a ballot but lost it or otherwise changed your mind, you will only be able to cast a provisional ballot. This ballot will not be counted until your election authority can verify that you did not vote by mail.

I’m stuck in line and it’s past closing time for my polling place, can I still vote?

Yes. Stay where you are — if you are in line, your polling place is required to allow you to vote.

If you show up to a polling place after the polls have closed, you may still request a provisional ballot.

I still can’t vote and I can’t reach my local election authority. What should I do?

You can call the State election board at 217-782-4141. You can also contact the nationwide Protect Our Election hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.

Wait. I still have questions.

We have a handy IL Newsroom voting guide and voter FAQ that covers many more topics — check it out!

And if you have questions about voting or the midterm elections, you can always Ask The Newsroom!