The number of pre-election voters in Chicago and some surrounding counties closely follows voter turnout in the 2018 mid-term elections, according to several election officials.

By Monday, 131,165 Chicago voters had either cast early or mailed ballots, up from 132,065 at the same time four years earlier when Illinois was the last race for a governor and other state offices. Election officials in Chicago said voter turnout has increased in recent weeks after turnout seemed low about a month ago.

“We are looking healthier now,” said Chicago Board of Election Commissioners spokesman Max Bever. “Compared to 2018, we are on our heels.”

One week ahead of election day, November 8, voters are increasingly using ballot papers by mail to make their election. Trend experts say they can point to lasting changes.

Chicago voters have already asked for over 200,000 votes cast by email from Monday, second only after the 2020 presidential election, which took place at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Bever said.

“We are in a transition period where people learn to vote in different ways,” said Christopher Mooney, a political scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The increased use of postal voting and its acceptance by people is a consequence of the 2020 pandemic election year. In future elections, the option to automatically receive voting by email instead of requiring one for each election is likely to increase in future elections.

As in Chicago, postal votes have accounted for the majority of Will County votes so far, according to Charles Pelkie, who is the chief of staff of Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry. Pelkie compared this year’s pre-election turnout with the 2018 competition.

“We are equal to get closer, and maybe equal,” said Pelkie.

Voting was similar with mid-term turnout in Lake County, and more voters are expected as election day approaches, said Robin O’Connor, a Lake County official.

“A lot of people tend to vote early on the weekend before the election,” said O’Connor. “We’re ready for it.”

The number of e-mailed ballots returned in DuPage by Tuesday overshadowed the number returned at the same time during the 2018 election. According to data released by the office of DuPage district official Jean Kaczmarek, voters returned 44,950 on Tuesday morning, up from 17,006 a week before the 2018 general election.

While early-voting in person has dropped by nearly 10,000, pre-election voting has increased by around 18,000 due to the increase in the number of voting lists.

“Promoting postal voting and doubling the number of early voting locations is giving us a strong start,” she wrote in an email statement.

The 2022 general election will be the first major election in Illinois since the introduction of laws expanding electronic and mailbox voting The voting programs are over, said Chicago Votes co-executive director Stevie Valles.

“Many of the rules in place that make it easier for people to participate are now showing their evidence,” he said.

He expects the turnout to continue to increase until the election day. He added that voting advocacy groups such as Chicago Votes focused their attention on the week of the elections, with many voters still waiting for votes to be cast on election day.

But high pre-election turnout does not necessarily mean that final voter turnout will be high, Mooney warned, as more people voting earlier could mean fewer votes on election day.

“I think you’ll probably be average,” said Kent Redfield, retired political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Only the final turnout after the election day will show whether the extension of access to voting really had an impact on voters – he added.

“If all you do is change your furniture, then you really haven’t done anything about participation,” said Redfield.

In this election, Redfield said, unions and union members could hit the polls harder as the question of a state referendum on a constitutional amendment that would enable collective bargaining is in the vote, while Republicans may appear in greater numbers to express their dissatisfaction with the passage of many elements of the controversial SAFE-T Act.

While many are voting earlier, voters who have not yet participated in the election received unsolicited text messages with false information about polling stations on election day, the Illinois State Electoral Commission warned on Tuesday in a press release.

Some voters in Illinois have complained to the state council that uninvited texts, sent by a group called Vote Futures, contain their addresses and advise them to vote in the wrong place, according to the announcement.

Movement Labs, a supplier working for progressive organizations such as Voto Latino and Black Voters Matter, admitted in a statement that he sent erroneous information in the texts to voters in Illinois, as well as in Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia.

“We want Illinois voters to know that their information about elections should only come from trusted sources, such as the State Electoral Council or local electoral body,” said Electoral Council Executive Director Bernadette Matthews.

jsheridan@chicagotribune.com

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