Early voting starts in collar counties, but Cook County voters will wait until October

Early voting started in much of Illinois on Thursday — 40 days before the Nov. 3 election — but Cook County residents will be waiting until October to cast a ballot.

Chicago residents must wait another week until early voting kicks off Oct. 1 at the Loop Super Site, 191 N. Clark St. Two weeks later, early voting sites open in all 50 wards.

Five suburban Cook County voting sites open Oct. 7, including courthouses in Bridgeview, Maywood, Markham, Rolling Meadows and Skokie. More than 40 other suburban voting locations open Oct. 19.

Sites are open: weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Election Day, Nov. 3, voting lasts from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Thursday also marked the start of statewide mail-in voting, which has seen a huge boost amid coronavirus concerns.

Election officials sent out about 245,000 mail-in ballots to Chicago voters on Thursday, according to a Chicago Election Board spokeswoman. More than 400,000 Chicagoans have applied for mail-in ballots, said Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Meanwhile, more than 400,000 voters in suburban Cook County are getting a mail-in ballot, according to Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough. She called the number “unprecedented.” By comparison, 106,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the 2018 mid-term election.

Statewide, nearly 1.8 million people have requested to vote by mail — about one-in-three voters. That’s compared to 7% of voters who used mail-in ballots in the 2016 election.

The push to vote by mail follows a temporary expansion of the state’s mail-in ballot program that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law this summer.