Vote-by-mail expansion approved in Illinois Senate; Pritzker supports bill

A plan to widely expand mail-in voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic is close to approval by the governor after the Senate OK’d it Friday.

The idea is to make it easier for voters to cast ballots and limit the number who have to go to physical locations and be exposed to the coronavirus. The Senate approved Democratic Lake Forest Sen. Julie Morrison’s legislation 37-19.

The measure returns to the House for agreement on changes made in the Senate. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, supports the legislation.

Applications to vote by mail would be sent to anyone who mailed in ballots in 2018, 2019, or the 2020 primary. They’d even be sent follow-up reminders in September and October if they don’t immediately respond.

There’s $16.8 million in federal funds — largely COVID-19 relief money — to go to local election authorities to pay for the program. But Republicans contend it will cost far more than that and county clerks and others who run elections will be saddled with unreasonable costs.

The expansion would be a one-time thing, applying only to the November 3 election. Republicans say it could open the door to error or fraud. They point to flubs in the state’s operation of automatic voter registration.