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Election 2020: What You Need To Know About Mail-In Voting In Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As a debate rages nationwide over the effectiveness of voting by mail, the Morning Insiders went to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to find out the best way to ensure your ballot is counted on time.

CBS 2's Tim McNicholas met with the election board chair and asked her five key questions on the process.

If you're voting by mail, Nov. 3 isn't the only day to mark on the calendar. We asked when Chicago voters who have requested a ballot by mail when they can expect to receive them.

"The ballots will be mailed out beginning September the 24th," said Board of Election Commissioners chair Marisel Hernandez.

That means voters can expect to get them in late September, or early October at the latest.

But that's only if you've already requested a ballot by mail. If you haven't, Hernandez said you should do that as soon as possible.

Requests for a mail ballot must be received by Oct. 29.

"We do not recommend that. We don't see how a person can receive it, fill it out, and return it by that time. We urge everyone to apply for a vote by mail ballot as soon as possible," Hernandez said.

Just this month, the U.S. Postal Service created a video assuring voters they're ready to handle the surge in mail ballots, telling people, "You can have great confidence in the 630,000 men and women of the U.S. Postal Service."

Delivering America's Election Mail by NPMHU1 on YouTube

The Post Office also is sending out postcards recommending voters submit their ballots at least seven days before Election Day on Nov. 3, or by Oct. 27.

Hernandez suggested mailing your ballot much sooner, by Oct. 14 at the latest.

She said, once you get your ballot, you should take no more than 24 hours to fill it out and then mail it back.

"We want to make sure every voter's vote is counted. We want to make sure that the Post Office delivers the ballot on time," she said.

You can also drop it off directly at the Post Office, or an early voting center.

Legally, as long as it's in the mail and postmarked by Nov. 3, and received by Nov. 17, your vote should count.

Hernandez said she's confident Chicago voters will know election results on election night.

"Unless the results are extremely, extremely close, we will know who the winners are," she said.

Voters might not know the final tallies until days later, when all the last-minute mail ballots are counted.

As of Monday, a record 367,000 people in Chicago have requested mail ballots.

So what will election officials do to prevent people from voting twice?

"For example, if you put your ballot in the mail and it is processed, and then you decide to vote on Election Day, the real time pollbook will show that you have already voted, and will block you from voting again," Hernandez said.

If you change your mind after you mail in your vote, she said you're "out of luck." It's final.

Hernandez said they've added staff to accommodate the surge in mail-in voters. All Chicago mail ballots are postage prepaid, no stamps needed. The Postal Service referred us to the video and the guidance on their website.

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