Election Day 2020 is November 3: Here’s how to vote if you are experiencing homelessness

By Niya K. Kelly, Director of State Legislative Policy, Equity and Transformation

COVID-19 Related Voting Procedures

Due to the pandemic, individuals are encouraged to vote early or by mail to minimize crowds and long waits on Election Day. Those who request vote-by-mail ballots have options for how to drop them off. Local Boards of Election throughout Illinois are setting up secure ballot drop boxes for those who would prefer not to mail in their ballots. Voters can visit this portal on the Illinois State Board of Elections’ website to find their nearest ballot drop box location. Chicago drop box locations can be found here.

PLEASE NOTE: Drop boxes will NOT be available at your precinct polling place on Election Day. If you bring a ballot there, you’ll have to surrender the vote-by-mail ballot and vote a new ballot in person.

In Chicago, voters can also drop off their vote-by-mail ballots at every Early Voting Site beginning October 14, or return their ballots directly to the Chicago Board of Elections at 69 W. Washington on the sixth floor. And of course, vote-by-mail ballots can also be returned in the mail, but must be postmarked by November 3, Election Day. An informational palm card is available here

Key Voter Registration Dates

Voting While Experiencing Homelessness

Illinois residents who are homeless have the right to vote in all local, state, and national elections, including the general election on November 3, 2020. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Illinois permits residents to vote early and request to vote by mail without providing an excuse or reason for this request. Also, Illinois residents can vote on Election Day even if they are not yet registered to vote.

This 2020 general election will decide your state legislators, judges, U.S. Representative and Senators, and the President.

Early voting in Chicago kicks off on Thursday, October 1. Officials began sending out vote-by-mail ballots on September 24. All people experiencing homelessness whether they are street-based, living in shelters, or doubled-up in the homes of others have the right to vote. This right is protected by state and federal laws, including the 2013 Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act.

You can check online to see if you are registered here.

You can register to vote on Election Day!

Any Illinois resident ages 18 or older can register to vote on Election Day at the precinct polling place assigned to their residential mailing address — that is, the address provided on one’s state I.D. or driver’s license. Chicago residents can also register at the Loop Super Site located downtown.

You are required to bring two (2) forms of identification (ID), including one that shows proof of residence or a mailing address. If you are experiencing homelessness, a letter from a service provider is one acceptable form of identification.

If you would like to register prior to Election Day, you may do so online with a state ID or driver’s license (deadline: Sunday, October 18) or by mail (must be postmarked by Tuesday, October 6).

What are acceptable forms of ID?

Acceptable forms of ID include mail postmarked to the applicant; an Illinois driver’s license or state ID card; a municipal ID card (for example, the Chicago CityKey); an employee or student ID; Social Security card; birth certificate; credit card; valid U.S. passport; and lease or rental contract.

As one form of ID, a person experiencing homelessness can provide a letter from a drop-in center, shelter, or the person in whose home they are living doubled-up. The letter must confirm that the named person has permission to use their address for the purpose of registering to vote.  Here is a template letter that can be used. 

To register to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18-years-old on or before Election Day, and not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

You cannot vote if you are currently incarcerated for a conviction. But, if you are in pre-trial detention and have not been convicted, you remain eligible to vote. Learn more about how to vote in pre-trial detention.

When is ID needed and not needed to vote? 

Identification is not necessary if the homeless voter has already registered to vote at the polling place; the signature they provide matches the one on file; and an election judge does not challenge the person’s right to vote.

But identification is necessary if the homeless voter faces these situations:

  • They registered by mail and did not include the Illinois ID/driver’s license number or Social Security number.
  • An election judge challenges the person’s right to vote. Please note: A common reason for challenging a person’s right to vote occurs after the Board of Elections has sent mail to verify a voter’s mailing address, but the mail was returned.

If a voter needs to show ID but is unable to do so, they may cast a provisional ballot. For that provisional ballot to be counted, the voter must present ID within seven (7) days of the election to the Board of Elections.

Voting after a recent move, whether homeless or housed

If you moved within the same precinct within 27 days of the election, you can vote a full ballot by signing an affidavit.

If you moved outside of your precinct more than 30 days before the election and did not register in your new precinct, you may grace-period update your registration through Election Day, and then grace-period vote.

If you moved outside of your precinct less than 30 days before the election, but still live in Illinois and did not transfer your registration, you may grace-period update your registration to your new address through Election Day and grace-period vote. Or, you can vote a full ballot in your old polling place after completing an affidavit.

For Election Day assistance, call these legal help desks:

  • Chicago Board of Elections, (312) 269-7870
  • Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough office, (312) 603-0236
  • Illinois State Board of Elections has phone numbers in Chicago at (312) 814-6440, and in Springfield at (217) 782-4141. Operators will be standing by until 11 p.m. in Chicago and until 12 midnight in Springfield.