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Illinois voters can vote by mail for life

Your guide to the 2024 elections

Abraham Lincoln statue in front of the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois pabradyphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Illinois voters can vote by mail for life


Voter makeup:

Nearly 8 million Illinois residents were registered to vote as of April 8, according to the state’s Board of Elections. Illinois does not require voters to register with a party.

The state lost a seat in Congress due to a 2 percent decline in population in the 2020 census, and Illinois’ new congressional map favors Democrats. It consolidated two Republican districts in southern Illinois and created a majority-Hispanic district in Chicago that is solidly Democratic.


Because the state has open primaries with nonpartisan registration, voters who are registered with one party are free to vote in other party’s primaries on the condition that they only vote once per primary election cycle. For the general election, Illinois voters can apply to vote by mail starting Aug. 9 and must return completed ballots by Nov. 5. Ballots with an Election Day postmark can be received up to 14 days after the election. Illinois residents can submit voter registration online before Oct. 20 or register in person up until Election Day. Early voting starts Sept. 26.

Illinois requires two forms of identification, one of which must show proof of current residence, to register to vote. That includes driver’s licenses, state identification cards, and utility bills. After receiving their voter cards, residents can vote without presenting other forms of identification.

Illinois permits no-excuse early voting and has expanded mail-in voting in recent years. In 2020, about 2 million voters, or 1 in 3, cast ballots by mail.

In 2021, Illinois passed a law that allows registered voters applying for a mail-in ballot to join a list to receive them automatically for future elections, no additional paperwork required. Voters who join the permanent vote-by-mail list are required to designate which party’s ballots they would like to receive in the primaries. In the 2022 midterm election, nearly 40 percent of voters opted to cast early ballots or vote by mail.

This year, a General Assembly committee is considering a bill to give election jurisdictions the option to make voting by mail the default method.


President Joe Biden received 729,877 votes in Illinois’s Democratic primary on March 19. That’s about 200,000 fewer votes than he garnered during the 2020 primary, when he beat out a crowded field. Because Illinois does not have an “uncommitted” option on its ballot, many Democrats protesting the president’s support for Israel cast write-in votes or skipped the presidential section of the ballot. Because only write-in votes cast for official candidates are counted, it is unclear how large the Israel protest vote was in Illinois compared to other blue states.

On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump’s name appeared on the ballot as planned despite a legal challenge from a group of voters and a judge in Chicago. Trump received 476,195 votes—a little more than 80 percent, while 14 percent went to Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race in February. The former president received more than 520,000 primary votes in 2020.


Of Illinois’ 17 seats in Congress, Republicans hold just three. Rep. Mike Bost of District 12 was the only incumbent facing a primary challenger, Darren Bailey. Bailey ran for governor in 2022 with Trump’s endorsement. But in this race, Trump endorsed Bost instead, who then beat Baily by a margin of nearly 3 percent.

Democratic incumbents in Districts 4, 6, 7, and 11—the “collar counties” around Chicago—defeated primary challengers.

In District 4, incumbent Jesús “Chuy” Garcia held out against the more moderate Raymond Lopez. Lopez’s campaign took a harder stance on immigration by calling for securing the borders while creating a pathway to citizenship.

The Cook Political Report predicts that only one of Illinois’ districts has a chance to change parties. District 17 is a largely rural area that includes cities such as Peoria and Rockford. Freshman Democratic Rep. Eric Sorensen will face retired Circuit Judge Joe McGraw in November. The area has trended more Republican since 2016, when former Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat, won with more than 60 percent of the vote. In 2022, Sorenson narrowly defeated Republican Esther Joy King for the seat. McGraw has made border security and restoring law and order key parts of his campaign.


Illinois’ seven state Supreme Court justices are elected to 10-year terms in partisan races. Two of them, appointed to fill vacancies in 2022, are up for election. Democratic Justice Joy Cunningham, who oversees District 1 in Chicago, overcame a primary challenge from Appellate Court Judge Jesse Reyes. Meanwhile, Republican Lisa Holder White of District 4 (a largely rural and Republican region) went through the GOP primary unopposed. In the general election, Cunningham and White are running unopposed, so the court makeup of 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans is unlikely to change this year.


The biggest surprise in the March 19 primary was the failure of a ballot measure in Chicago intended to combat homelessness.

The “Bring Home Chicago” question for voters proposed raising real estate taxes on properties selling for more than $1 million while lowering taxes on properties that sell for less. The increased tax revenue would go toward housing programs. The ballot measure failed by a 4.4 percent margin.

Dig deeper:

  • Read Carolina Lumetta’s report on how Republican party leaders are shifting to support voting by mail.
  • Read Josh Schumacher’s report on the Illinois State Board of Elections decision to keep Donald Trump on the primary ballot after efforts to block him.

Visit the WORLD Election Center 2024 to follow our state-by-state coverage between now and November.

Harrison Watters

Harrison Watters is the program producer of The World and Everything in It. He’s a graduate of Boyce College in Louisville, Ky., and a 2020 graduate of the World Journalism Institute. He previously worked as the producer of the How Leaders Lead with David Novak podcast.

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