By Mary Sisk
Rock River Current
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All registered voters within the city will receive a vote-by-mail application this month, and they can choose the vote-by-mail option for the upcoming election or indefinitely.
Starting this year, the state of Illinois requires the Rockford Board of Elections, 301 S. Sixth St., and other election authorities to mail out these permanent applications to any registered voter. There are approximately 84,000 registered voters in the city limits.
“They will no longer have to call or fill out another application in any future election,” said Stacey Bixby, executive director of the board of elections. “We will just automatically mail a ballot to them if the application is filled out properly and sent back to us.”
She said mail-in voting could increase voter participation, particularly from those who have concerns with in-person voting due to the coronavirus.
“A lot of people prefer to vote by mail,” Bixby said. “With COVID, coronavirus, it keeps them from having to come in contact with a lot of people.”
To vote by mail, applications must be returned to the board of elections by Nov. 3. Should voters not return the application, they will continue to receive a permanent vote-by-mail application before future elections.
“What I think the registered voters need to know is that statute mandates that these applications get mailed to every registered voter, every election,” Bixby said. “If you don’t fill out this application and send it back to us, you’re going to get another application before the next election.”
Vote-by-mail applications can also be requested by phone or online through the Rockford Board of Elections’ website, voterockfordil.gov.
While voting through the mail isn’t a new resource, this will be the first time a permanent vote-by-mail application will be automatically sent to every registered Rockford voter.
You may also receive applications from other political operations, Bixby said. Legitimate applications from other organizations are accepted, but you can only turn in one sheet and extras are discarded.
The permanent application will give voters the option to vote-by-mail in only the current election or every election. If you choose every election, you can either choose your party or only receive ballots for elections that don’t require a party choice.
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Bixby hopes the permanent vote-by-mail applications encourage more to get involved and vote in Rockford. In the primary election in June, voter turnout stood at about 17.5% in Rockford. Turnout was nearly 63% during the November 2020 election that included the U.S. presidential race.
The next election here is slated for Nov. 8.
“I would hope to see voter turnout increase,” Bixby said. “General elections and local elections, these are the people that represent us. If we don’t vote, then we don’t have a say.”