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Officials Prepare For Election Day In Chicago With Record For Early Voting, Mail-In Ballots

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Early voting for the 2020 general election still had a little bit of time to go as of late Monday afternoon, but it had already set records by that time – along with mail-in ballots.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported, many of the election officials we contacted Monday said problems are minimal. But the U.S. Department of Justice said they would be sending monitors to keep an eye on polling places in Cook County and Chicago on Tuesday – just in case.

Meanwhile, voting setup continued Monday afternoon at the United Center, a first-time super site this election year. It is part of the city's goal of making it as easy as possible to cast a ballot – whether it is on or before Election Day.

"We have been processing vote-by-mail applications since early October; since we've been receiving them," Chicago Board of Elections Chairwoman Marisel Hernandez said earlier Monday.

Hernandez said of the 507,000 mail-in ballots requested by Chicago voters, 402,000 have been returned. A total of 336,450 voters have cast in-person ballots – not counting the rush on Monday.

The ballots are being processed, but cannot be counted yet.

"We have not counted any ballots," Hernandez said. "That occurs after 7 p.m. once the polls are closed on Election Day."

It's not just Chicago. No Illinois ballots can actually be tabulated until polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Hernandez said the city is ready for all 2,069 polling places to open on Election Day too.

"We have currently 13,500 election judges scheduled for tomorrow, and in addition to that, we have standby judges," she said.

That is 3,000 more judges for Tuesday than for the March primary – if all of them show up.

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Hernandez said there are no major problems or threats to polling places right now. Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said there are no statewide concerns either.

"Everything seems to be going very smoothly," Dietrich said.

Statewide, almost 3.6 million people have already voted – 1.8 million in person, and 1.7 million by mail. But here's the hitch – more than a half a million mail-in ballots have not been returned, and voters have until Nov. 17 to do so.

Dietrich said that likely means results for the graduated income tax amendment, and some other races, won't be final on Tuesday.

"if we have half a million votes trickling in in the two weeks after Election day from election authority statewide, you could see, those down-ballot races, you could see leads changing," he said.

There are other races that could also be affected.

"Where it could also get tricky, though, is we have some very competitive congressional races that were only decided by a few thousand votes two years ago." Dietrich said.

Dietrich said 43 percent of the state's registered voters have already cast a ballot. That is more than half of all voters who typically vote.

Dietrich said 43 percent of the state's registered voters have already cast a ballot. That is more than half of all voters who typically vote.

"We're going to be watching to see – are we going to hit that 70 to 75 percent that Illinois typically hits for turnout in a presidential election. We just don't know that yet," he said. "We're on pace to meet it."

Dietrich also emphasized the message, "Voters should not be fearful of voting in person at a polling place."

Illinois mail-in ballots have to be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3, but can arrive at the polling place to be counted until Tuesday, Nov. 17. They can also be put in drop-boxes on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, early voting ends at 7 p.m. Monday. Polls open for Election Day at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Of those half million ballots not returned, about a fifth of them belong to Chicago voters.


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