Credit: Maya Dukmasova

The most consequential Election Day in Chicago history is upon us, and many have held out on voting until the last possible minute. We’re with you. There are so many choices for mayor, and a host of competing candidates in many wards for alderman, too. Or maybe you’ve waited this long to vote because there’s a special something about voting on Election Day proper, when the buzz of the collective fulfillment of civic duty is thick in the air.

Though “voter fraud” is usually fake news, electioneering and ballot access are serious issues, and Chicago voters have a “Bill of Rights.” In the interest of ensuring election fairness and integrity, here’s what you need to know:

  • You can register to vote at the polls. Here’s what to bring with you to verify your address if it’s your first time casting a ballot or if you’ve moved since the last time you voted.
  • If you have a criminal record, even a felony conviction, you can vote as long as you’re not in prison. That includes citizens on probation or parole.
  • You’re allowed to bring and use a cheat sheet on paper or on your phone when you vote.
  • Polling places are open from 6 AM to 7 PM. Any voter in line at a polling place by 7 PM must be allowed to vote.
  • Electioneering (which includes any display of support for candidates such as signage, or candidates or their representatives talking to voters) must not happen within 100 feet of a polling place. Though every polling place usually has Republican and Democratic judges, no one should be promoting candidates inside the polling place (including by wearing buttons or giving out swag).
  • A voter who needs assistance due to a language barrier, disability, or other issue is entitled to have a person of their choice assist them, as long as that person isn’t their employer or union representative. In some precincts, bilingual poll workers must also be present (see full list of precincts and required languages here). Curbside voting must also be provided if a polling place is not accessible.
  • No one should be asking you for ID to vote, with a few exceptions, listed here.
  • Election workers must troubleshoot broken machines. Report any issues to them, and they should call an equipment manager if they can’t fix the issue themselves.
  • So what do you do if you see something shady at the polls, like electioneering that’s too close for comfort, or poll workers that “don’t know bullfrog from catfish,” or a lack of needed accessibility or language accommodations?

    On Election Day, Chicago Board of Elections investigators will be present in every ward. You can report any apparent problems directly to the board’s hotline at 312-269-7870.

    If that number is busy you can also call one of the hotlines maintained by the Election Protection Coalition:

  • English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
  • Spanish: 888-VEY-VOTA (888-839-8682)
  • Variety of Asian languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
  • Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)
  • Happy voting! And tune in to the Reader’s Back Room Deal Facebook livestream starting at 5 PM Tuesday to decompress from the initial campaign cycle with me and Ben Joravsky and watch the results roll in. You can also call us at 312-488-9265 to talk about what you saw at the polls!  v

Updated to clarify that the election hotlines are run by several organizations.