Yesterday, I took advantage of early voting in Illinois (because we’ll be in Florida on actual primary day!). I posted an FYI on Instagram stories that there was no line at the Bucktown/Wicker Park library location!
I received a plethora of DM’s saying, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea I could vote early there!” and “I’ve been wanting to look into early voting, but didn’t know much about it. But then I was able to stop by and vote after work and it only take a few minutes, thank you!” and “Can I register to vote here and vote here at the same time?”
ALL great questions that I’m sure so many of you have, whether you live in Illinois or in another state that has a primary election coming up soon. (Side note: I wish I would’ve gotten this post up to be a resource before Super Tuesday! But better late than never, right?)
I decided to compile a blog post that will hopefully be helpful for you!
Luckily enough, the idea to do this post was PERFECTLY timed, because I grabbed coffee earlier this week with GG reader and my new friend, Kaitlin Fahey, who also happens to be Chief of Staff for Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth. (Kaitlin is one of those people you feel like you’ve been friends with for 10 years even though you’ve known her for 5 seconds. Nearly two hours flew by in what seemed like 15 minutes. I’m pretty sure we’d STILL be talking had we not had other obligations to tend to. 😂)
Having worked in politics for pretty much her adulthood, she was an amazing person to brainstorm with on the very important topic of voting, and she mentioned this idea of creating a “voting plan”––which naturally, I loved, and thought would make a perfect idea for a blog post!
Let’s be honest, sometimes you feel like you just aren’t educated enough on the issues. Or actually getting there can be tricky with all the crazy things we’re juggling in life already–work, kids, you know––all the things. But it’s important to remember that our democracy doesn’t work if not everyone takes the time to have a say! If you make a plan, you can make it happen! Here are some great tips (thank you, Kaitlin, for weighing in!) on how to create a voting plan that works for you.
How to create your own voting plan
Find out when your primary is
Several have already taken place, (I wish I could’ve gotten this post up a few weeks ago!!) but many are still to come! Vox has a good article that includes primary election dates and also explains the primary process, for those who are interested. A quick google search of “[your state here] primary election” will also get you to the right place.
Find out where your polling place is
Vote411 is a great resource for all things voting. Simply enter your address and it will tell you where your day-of polling place is when you punch in your address and whether or not they offer same-day registration.
Get educated on the issues
I think the coolest part about Vote411 is that they allow you to explore who you’re voting for and where they stand on given issues! (Note, I believe the level of detail does vary by state and location, but it’s a really good place to start!) If you live in Illinois, I highly recommend IllinoisVotersGuide.org, which is what I used to research the local candidates I was unfamiliar with.
(Side note: I’m pretty sure NOBODY is familiar with ALL the local candidates running. So seriously, never feel shame about that. That is why amazing resources on the internet exist, so you can quickly compare them and see where they stand on key issues.)
It was SO easy and allows you to go through each candidate, compare, add people to your ballot, and then email your ballot to yourself so when you go into the voting booth, so all you have to do is pull up your phone and check off the correct names.
Take advantage of early voting or vote by mail
Most states offer early voting and/or vote by mail options! It’s really easy to figure out what your state offers––simply google “[your state here] vote by mail application” or “[your state here] early voting locations.” Early voting stations are open after work and on weekends as well!
For Illinois at least, the deadline to apply to vote by mail and obtain a ballot is 5 days prior to election day, which is 5pm TODAY, March 12th. (Click here to apply to vote by mail in Illinois!)
Get the OK from your boss ahead of time
In many states, employees are granted paid time off in order to vote! (In Illinois, it’s two hours!) This Business Insider article is a great resource to see what your state offers. Many employees, especially if you work at a smaller company, may still not be aware of this. (I wasn’t until a reader sent me this! Thank you!!)
The more heads up you can give your manager, the better. You don’t want to surprise them on a busy day by telling them they need to give you 2 hours of PTO at the last minute to vote! Make sure they’re OK with your plan ahead of time as a courtesy.
Here is some example language you can use if you’re unsure of how to bring this up to your boss:
I was hoping to take an hour or so on [x day] afternoon to vote, and wanted to make sure you go that worked with your schedule! I’ve already discussed with [x team members] and we’ve agreed to stagger the times we plan to take off, so we have adequate team coverage at all times. Please let me know if this works for you.
Thanks so much!
Image via Business Insider
Go with a friend or bring the kids
What’s better than going to the polls? Going to the polls with a friend! Instead of a usual happy hour or coffee date, ask a friend if she’d like to go vote together. And you can catch up during, before, or after!
Also, many of you told me you’ve made a tradition of bringing your kids to vote with you. I thought that was SO cool! Some even said your parents did this with you when you were growing up and it taught you how important it was to use your voice! I plan to do this when we have kids, too!
Build in a reward
I don’t know about you, but I love a good excuse to reward myself. 😂After you vote, treat yourself to a delicious latte, matcha, or cocktail! Why not? You could’ve EASILY sat at home, but you didn’t! That deserves a reward!
Bring a cheat sheet
Fact: You can bring your phone, notes, whatever in with you to vote! It’s not a test––if you don’t know certain candidates on the ballot and what they stand for, you can do a quick google search! You don’t HAVE to be educated on every single person you’re voting for––and don’t feel bad if you aren’t, because that’s the norm! That’s why I love Vote411–it lets you research and add candidates to your ballot so you have an easy list to reference when you walk into the voting booth!
Know what you need to bring
What you need to bring with you to vote may vary by state, and differ based on whether or not you’re already registered––as many states let you register AND vote same-day.
A quick google search will lead you to the right place. For Illinois, you can see IL registration requirements here. If you’re already registered, you don’t need to bring anything with you to vote in Illinois–just yourself!
Know your voting rights
It’s important to do your research on your rights as a voter! Unfortunately, in many states, they make voting harder and more confusing than it needs to be. And may even purposely try to confuse you based on who you’re voting for. (I’ve heard so many bad stories about this!) Rock the Vote has an entire page dedicated to voting rights and what they are by state so you can be confident in knowing your rights when you go to vote!
Put it on the calendar
For me, unless something is on my calendar, it doesn’t happen! Block off your calendar so you can ensure you plan your day around it accordingly.