Election season is officially here as early voting begins Thursday across Illinois, marking 40 days until the Nov. 8 general election.
The 2022 election cycle has been as unusual as it is consequential in Illinois and McHenry County, as a number of factors dating back to 2020 have both elongated and compressed several different timelines leading up to election day. Questions about security and changes to vote counting processes, including new audit procedures, also will be in place.
To pair with the adjustments, several noteworthy races on every level of government are on the ballot in this year’s midterm election.
What you need to know about voting
In McHenry County, registered voters may cast their ballots early at the county clerk’s office, according to a county news release. The hours for early voting are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the County Administration Building, 667 Ware Road in Woodstock.
Starting Oct. 24, 10 more early-voting locations will open across McHenry County, according to the release. Those include the McHenry Township Office, the Algonquin Township Office, McHenry City Hall, Lake in the Hills Village Hall, Nunda Township Office, Huntley Park District, Cary Area Library, Algonquin Library, Dunham Township Office and Marengo City Hall.
For a full list of the hours for each location, check out the county clerk’s website.
Thursday also marks the first day for mail-in ballots to be sent to voters who have requested them, according to the release. For those interested in requesting one, voters can get an application at the clerk’s office or download one from the clerk’s website.
The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Nov. 3 and mailed ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 8, according to the release.
Voters do not need to give a reason for voting by mail.
For those who need to register to vote, that can be done by filling out an application on the Illinois State Board of Elections website, or downloading a form to register by mail, according to the release. Those interested in registering must be a U.S. citizen, be 18 years old on or before the date of the election, must live in their precinct at least 30 days before the election, not be serving a prison sentence as a result of a conviction and may not vote anywhere else.
The last day to register is Oct. 23, according to the state board’s website.
The county clerk also is looking for people who are interested in serving as election judges, which comes with pay and training, according to the release. Those interested may apply through the clerk’s office.
Who’s on the ballot
In McHenry County, all 18 County Board seats are on the ballot, along with the county clerk and treasurer. Two other positions, the sheriff and the regional superintendent of schools, each will see a Republican candidate run uncontested.
The County Board this year will be reduced from 24 seats to 18, and its six districts increased to nine, coinciding with the state’s decennial reapportionment process following the 2020 census. With each district electing two people, all nine races will be contested this year.
In addition to the Illinois gubernatorial race – which pits Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker against Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey of downstate Xenia – McHenry County voters will cast ballots for the attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer and candidates for the Illinois General Assembly as well as a state Supreme Court seat.
All 17 seats in Illinois’ US House of Representatives, a number that shrank by one because of the census, are up for election this year. Voters also will weigh in on the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Republican Kathy Salvi and Libertarian Bill Redpath.
There are no candidacies at the state level being contested currently, state board spokesperson Matt Dietrich said in an email Wednesday. McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio on Wednesday confirmed there are no candidacies being contested locally either.
Challenges this year
This election cycle has had several different hurdles throughout the election cycle, dating back before the primary in June and leading up to the general election in November. Throughout the year, Tirio has discussed worries about an elongated timeline in the primary, which was extended by several months. Typically, primaries take place in March or April, with this year’s taking place in late June.
That, in turn, has shortened the timeline between the primary and the general election in November.
The moving targets also caused concerns about voter turnout in the primary with it taking place in the summer. However, more than 44,000 McHenry County voters turned out in this year’s primary, election results show. This compares with the last midterm primary in 2018, which saw 48,000. Across the state, almost 308,000 people voted early in June’s primary, data from the state board shows.
In 2018 a total of 1.1 million people voted early, which more than doubled the 523,000 early votes in the 2014 midterm elections, according to state board data. In the past two presidential years, 2020 and 2016, 2 million and 1.5 million people voted early, respectively.
Questions about residents receiving updated information on their voting locations also have come up, with Democrats on the board penning an opinion piece earlier this year about the topic. Tirio, a Republican, has called the criticisms “partisan.”
Tirio declined to comment further on those issues for this story on Wednesday.
Party officials also voiced problems with campaigning as a result of the timeline. The McHenry County Libertarians Chairman Jim Young, for example, said in May that reducing the campaign timeline for the general election benefits the incumbent.
“I’ve put pamphlets up on people’s doors and been told they’ve already voted,” he said in May. “By cutting the election time almost in half, you’re really helping incumbents.”