Residents 18 years of age or older can register to vote in Illinois at any time throughout the year. The time of the year that residents decide to register will impact where and how they need to complete the voter registration process. Other factors, such as active duty military service, incarceration or a recent change of name or address can also affect residents’ options. The time that applicants seek to register also determines whether or not they will be able to vote in supplemental elections, like in primaries.

Applying for a voter registration card early allows prospective voters to ensure that their information is in order in time for them to vote in any and all of the elections in which they wish to participate. It also enables them to take advantage of absentee ballots and other accommodations they may need. For voters’ convenience, Illinois allows residents to register at Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices, among other locations.

Who can register to vote in Illinois?

Residents who are unsure of their status and wondering, “Am I registered to vote in Illinois?” can find out easily online. The State Board of Elections operates a website that allows voters to check their status by entering their names, dates of birth and ZIP codes. Unregistered residents who wish to vote must meet a series of criteria in order to begin the registration process.

Prospective voters must be United States citizens at least 17 years of age who will be 18 on or prior to a general election. Applicants must have resided in Illinois for a minimum of 30 days and cannot be actively voting through any other precinct. Residents may not apply for a voter registration card if they have been convicted of a crime and are incarcerated.

Illinois Voter Registration Deadline

Qualifying residents may register to vote in Illinois throughout the year, with the exception of a brief window of time around the general election. The window closes 27 days prior to the general election and does not reopen until two days afterward.

During this “grace period,” voters can change voter registration information or register for the first time only at sites specifically designated by their local election authorities. Additional deadlines may apply to prospective voters who want to vote in primary elections or who need absentee ballots.

How to Register to Vote in Illinois

Applicants deciding how to register to vote in Illinois can apply for a voter registration card online, by mail, through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or in person. Online applications may be submitted at any time, except for during the grace period around the general election. Applications submitted by mail should be addressed as per the instructions on the form.

Under a recently implemented automatic voter registration law, the DMV has also begun asking Illinois drivers license applicants if they would like to register to vote. Motorists updating their licenses are asked if they would like to simultaneously complete a voter registration change of address.

Residents may also register to vote in person at:

  • County Clerks’ Offices.
  • Board of Elections Offices.
  • City, village or township offices.
  • Public libraries.
  • Military recruitment centers.
  • Other registration locations appointed by local election authorities.

To apply for a voter registration card, applicants must present two forms of acceptable proof of identification and proof of residency such as:

  • A drivers license number or DMV-issued non-driver ID.
  • A Social Security Number (SSN)
  • A college- or school-issued photo ID
  • Postmarked mail bearing the applicant’s current physical address (e.g. a utility bill or bank statement)
  • A pay stub or government-issued check showing the applicant’s name and address
  • A signed lease agreement

Early Voting in Illinois

“How and where do I vote in Illinois if I want to vote early?” is a common question among state voters. Early voting is an option under which registered voters can cast their ballots in advance of general Election Day. Early voting sites and hours are determined and announced by local voting authorities and are open from 40 days prior to Election Day to the day before Election Day.

Voter registration card holders who wish to vote early do not need to provide a reason for their preference, but they must cast their ballots in person at any approved site. Sites must be announced a minimum of 10 days prior to their opening or 50 days prior to a general election.

Illinois Voter Registration for Active Duty Military and Out-of-State Residents

Illinois voters living overseas or who are serving in active duty military positions must apply to vote by absentee ballot when registering. They can submit and track their requests via the state’s Illinois Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) website.

Alternatively, applicants can utilize the Federal Postcard Application form supplied by the Department of Defense to handle their voter registration and mail-in ballot needs. Emergency Special State Write-in Ballots are available to out-of-state and military voters who do not receive their mail-in ballots in time.

Illinois Voter Registration for Absentee Voting

Illinois voter registration card holders may request absentee ballots for one election only or all elections on an ongoing basis, at their preference. Voters may sign up for absentee ballots when they register or send for them as needed. The deadlines by which voters must request absentee ballots vary depending on where the voter is. Military voters stationed out of the country need to request their ballots earlier than in-state voters seeking absentee ballots.

Mail-in ballots may be cast up to three months early but must be returned by specific deadlines to be counted. Residents who are registered to vote via absentee ballot may submit their ballots by mail. Alternatively, following appropriate procedures, they may turn in the ballots themselves in person or by having another, properly authorized individual turn the ballots in for them.

Voter Registration Cards in Illinois

Illinois voter registration cards contain voters’ information as it appears on election board records. This includes personal identifying information, such as name, address and contact information, as well as indicators of political party affiliation and other key facts. The cards serve as proof that a resident has registered and indicate where he or she is authorized to vote.

How to Change Your Voter Registration in Illinois

Voters who need to change their voter registration address, political party affiliation, name on record or any other key facts related to their registrations can do so by re-registering using their method of choice. Voters will need to provide documents supporting the change, such as a marriage or divorce certificate or post-marked mail, along with their applications to have their information updated.

Voters are strongly encouraged not to wait until Election Day to update or change their voter registration records. First, changing one’s address can change a voter’s polling place. Second, lack of adequate documentation can prevent voters from qualifying to have their records updated.

In either case, voters who wait until Election Day may find themselves unable to vote. When updating their registrations, voters should also be sure to change the address on their driver’s licenses, as well as on other important DMV documentation, such as their vehicle registrations.

How to Replace a Lost Illinois Voter Registration Card

New Illinois voter registration cards can be requested from voters’ County Clerks’ Offices.

Last updated on Thursday, October 15 2020.