Visit The TRiiBE Election Center to learn more about the upcoming 2023 Chicago municipal election. Click here to find your Chicago ward and police district.


On Feb. 28, 2023, Chicago residents will be hitting the polls again to elect the next mayor, clerk, treasurer, alderpeople and the newly-created local Police District Councils; the latter which consist of three-seats councils for each of the 22 police districts. 

Voting at the polls is one option that people have to make their voices heard during an election cycle. However, more adults are recognizing the value of voting by mail.

Although some may have once felt that voting by mail was something only older and disabled/differently-abled individuals did, that is no longer the case as younger people deal with increasingly hectic schedules and longer voting lines.

The advantages of voting by mail are many, although convenience may be the primary motivation for many who apply to elect officials that way.

“The feedback that we’ve gotten indicates that people prefer voting by mail because there’s a paper ballot, they’ve got all the time to research the candidates and offices, and there’s a tracking process that comes with it,” Chicago Board of Elections (CBOE) Director of Public Information Max Bever told The TRiiBE. “And even if their vote-by-mail ballots are rejected for some reason, they can still vote in person.”

According to Bever, the numbers of Chicago residents who are choosing to vote by mail have generally increased over the years. In the 2019 municipal election, 66,373 vote-by-mail ballots were requested, with 79% of them returned

Then in 2020, vote-by-mail numbers skyrocketed, thanks to the pandemic.

“In November 2020, we got over half a million vote-by-mail requests,” he said. “Voting by mail and early voting accounted for more than 70% of voting in November 2020.”

In the November 2022 general election, 207,819 vote-by-mail ballots were requested, with 82% of them returned.

Katrina Phidd is the director of communications for Chicago Votes, a non-partisan, non-profit organization aiming for a more inclusive democracy by putting power in the hands of young Chicagoans. She agreed with Bever about the increased interest in voting by mail.

“I think we really saw an increase in education around voting by mail with the 2020 election. That was largely because of the pandemic and a lot of fear and panic about how elections would turn out. People didn’t want to leave their homes and risk becoming infected with COVID,” Phidd said.

”There was a renewed push for voting by mail and a renewed push by advocates around the state to fight for the right to vote by mail,” she added.

As for the 2023 municipal elections, Phidd predicts that younger Chicagoans will continue to vote by mail, adding, “Going to a polling place on Election Day and relying on that is kind of an outdated practice. In Illinois, thank God that we have early voting and grace-period voting so the need to vote in-person on Election Day is not super-necessary anymore.”

“Young people can be very transient, whether it’s going from apartment to apartment or being in another state but wanting to vote in Illinois,” Phidd continued. “So that’s another reason that people have been taking advantage of voting by mail.”

There can be some drawbacks to voting by mail, however. According to Bever, one of those drawbacks is relying on the United States Postal Service (USPS).

“There are still delays within the mail system,” Bever said. “We can keep our eyes on the ballots in the beginning of the process but we rely on the USPS to deliver them to people and that may not be consistent.”

One way around that, he said, is to use CBOE’s secure dropbox program. Dropboxes are secure locations where people can safely submit their completed ballots.

Despite highly recommending that residents vote by mail, Phidd also noted some disadvantages to voting by mail —but they can be overcome with planning, she said.

“We see a number of people request vote-by-mail ballots but then they have to fill them out and drop them off at dropboxes, so those add more steps to the process,” Phidd said.

Also, she said, people sometimes forget to check their mailboxes for their mail-in ballots or procrastinate filling it out altogether. 

“It’s on the individual to be organized and keep deadlines,” she said. 

For now, though, voting by mail provides a reliable option for Chicagoans of all voting ages.

“There is relatively good evidence that voting by mail is popular and here to stay,” Bever said.

Fighting for the right to vote by mail

Interestingly, people can also choose to permanently vote by mail.

Bever said the Illinois legislature passed the law responsible for that option in 2021; Also, there are options that let people pick or party (so they can get ballots with all Democratic candidates, for example).

He added that more than 140,000 Chicagoans have already signed up for the permanent roster list. (Note: The application to be on the permanent roster list must be returned no later than five days prior to any election by personal delivery or mailing it to the Chicago Board of Elections at 69 W. Washington St. #800, Chicago, IL, 60602.)

However, just because voting by mail is here to stay doesn’t mean it’s available to everyone. For example, disenfranchised communities — ranging from low-income individuals to incarcerated people — may not know about the possibilities of voting by mail, robbing them of opportunities to participate in the voting process.

Ami Gandhi, a senior attorney with the Chicago Lawyers’​ Committee for Civil Rights (CLCCR), works to reduce barriers to voting and improve civic participation, especially for low-income communities of color and low-income communities. 

“As an organization focused on advancing racial equity, we hear loud and clear from leaders in Black and brown communities that the need for vigilance continues when it comes to protecting and expanding rights — even in Illinois and even in 2022,” she said.

Not knowing the facts about voting can cause obstacles for many. For example, people may not know, according to Know Your Rights, that they, too, can vote if they have been released from jail, are on probation or are homeless.

And Gandhi mentioned yet another advantage voting by mail can provide for marginalized communities.

“Communities have a lot of diversity even within their own communities,” Gandhi said. “For people with language barriers, there are more citizens who are still learning English and who are legally entitled to interpreters and translations. Some people with limited English proficiency prefer to vote at home using materials or interpreters of their choice.”

Gandhi added that anyone who has difficulty with the electoral process can call the Nonpartisan Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.

“What we hear time and time again from voters is that they want plenty of options when it comes to how they can participate,” Gandhi said. “Anyone who wants the option to vote by mail should have the opportunity to do so.”

is the Digital News Editor for The TRiiBE.