Student Voting Guide | Illinois

August 15, 2014

This student voter guide explains the laws for the state of Illinois. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voter guide for the state in which you attend school. If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voter guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here.

While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.

Registration

You can register to vote in Illinois if you will be 18 by the next general election (and can vote at age 17 during a primary) and have been an Illinois resident for at least 30 days by the next election.[1] If you have an Illinois state ID or drivers’ license, you can register to vote online. If you do not have a state ID or drivers’ license, you will need to register by mail or in person.

The deadline to register to vote is the 28th day before an election.[2] If you are registering by mail, mailed forms must be postmarked by that date.[3] You may register or change your registration address in person up to the 3rd day before an election, by filing “grace period” registration.[4] If you register to vote during this “grace period,” you must vote in person at the county elections office or other specially designated “grace period” locations, or vote by mail.[5] Your vote will be counted so long as it is determined to be valid.[6]

For the 2014 general election only, registration will be open until the polls close on Election Day. You can register and vote at the same polling place.[7]

Voters who register in person must show two forms of identification, including one that shows your current address. Acceptable ID includes, but is not limited to: a driver's license, Social Security card, public aid identification card, utility bill, employee or student identification card, residential lease or contract, credit card, or a civic, union or professional association membership card.[8]

If you register for the first time via mail, you will also need to provide your Illinois drivers’ license, state ID number or the last four digits of your social security number. If you don’t have these, or the numbers aren’t matched in the state’s database, you will need to provide, either with your registration or at the polling place the first time you vote, a copy of a current and valid photo identification, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and address.

You can check your voter registration status online.

Residency

Illinois law requires voters to be residents of Illinois and the election district where they intend to vote for 30 days preceding an election.[9] In order to be considered a “resident of Illinois,” you must have a “permanent abode” in the election district;[10] a “permanent abode” requires both physical presence and intent to remain at that address.[11]  Recent interpretations establish that (1) you do not need to intend to remain in that residence forever,[12] and (2) if you have two locations that could reasonably be considered your permanent abode, you can choose between them.[13]

At School. Students can establish residency in Illinois if they have a present intention to remain at their Illinois school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.[14] In practice, the state elections division lets students choose whether they want to register at their previous address or at their school address.  However, Illinois courts have indicated that they will presume that students have a permanent abode at their parents’ address. [15]

At Home. Students who live in Illinois but move to another state for school, and who wish to establish or keep their Illinois voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ address), should have no problem doing so unless they register to vote in another state. Illinois courts have indicated that the default presumption is that students have a permanent abode at their parents’ address.[16] Like most states, Illinois allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the county or state to attend school. The only way you can lose this residency is if you “abandon” it by asserting residency in a new state.[17]

While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of residency in Illinois, some judges or officials might view it as such.[18] If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Illinois with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in Illinois. 

Voting in Illinois may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws governing residents.[19]

Challenges to Residency. Under Illinois law, if the registration officer believes that you are not a resident, you will have to appear before the county clerk in order to complete your registration.[20] If the clerk finds that you are ineligible to register due to residency, you may appeal to a state court.[21]

If your eligibility to vote is challenged at the polls on Election Day, you will still be able to cast a regular ballot if you complete an affidavit swearing that you are a resident and provide two forms of ID that have your current address,[22] or have a witness who is registered in the precinct swear to your residency.[23] If a majority of the election judges at the polls make a determination that you are not a resident, you are still entitled to cast a provisional ballot.[24] The provisional ballot will be counted if the county clerk or board of election commissioners determine that you are an eligible voter.[25] You have the right to provide additional information about your provisional ballot to the clerk or board within seven calendar days after the election.[26]

Identification

Most Illinois voters do not need to show ID when voting. However, if you are a first-time Illinois voter who registered by mail, and election officials could not verify your identifying numbers (your Illinois driver’s license or ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number), you will have to provide proof of identification, either at the polls or anytime before Election Day.[27]

Sufficient proof of identity includes any current and valid photo ID, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, car registration, non-photo driver’s license, rent receipt, sample ballot, utility bill (including cell phone and student housing bills), or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.[28]

Only first-time voters who register by mail and do not have their identity verified by the state must provide ID, either when voting in person or by submitting a copy of their ID with their registration form.[29] Sufficient proof of identity includes: driver’s license number, State ID card number, the last four digits of your social security card, a copy of a current and valid photo ID, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other federal, State, or local government document showing your name and address.[30] You may also use a college or university issued photo ID, along with either a copy of your contract or lease for your residence, or postmarked mail delivered to your current address. [31]

If you do not provide identification, you will be able to submit a provisional ballot.[32]

Absentee Voting

Any voter registered in Illinois - including those attending school away from their voting address - is entitled to vote by absentee ballot.[33] You must apply for an absentee ballot either in person at the country clerk’s office or by mail (you can download and print the form on the Illinois Board of Elections website). Mailed applications must be received by the county clerk five days before the election, while absentee ballot applications made in person can be made up to one day before the election.[34] Some counties may allow you to apply for an absentee ballot online; check your local elections website for information.

You must return your absentee ballot to the election authority in person before the closing of the polls.[35] If you mail in your absentee ballot, it must be postmarked by midnight on the day before the election and received within 14 days after the election.[36]

First-time voters who registered by mail and whose identity was not verified by the state must provide a copy of valid ID before they may apply for an absentee ballot (see Identification section, above, for more details).[37]

Early Voting

As a convenience to voters, Illinois has early voting which begins 15 days before an election and ends on the 3rd day before Election Day, except in 2014 where it will end on the 2nd day before Election Day.[38] At most early voting sites, you can vote any precinct’s ballot for that county.[39] You should contact your local elections office for locations and hours.

 Campus Access to Voting

Illinois state law now requires polling locations be made available in high traffic locations on the campuses of public universities.[40] These polling locations are guaranteed to carry the ballots pertaining to the campus’ precinct, and the precincts bordering the university.[41] These locations will also serve as in-person absentee ballot polling places.[42]

Last Updated August 15, 2014


[1] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-1.

[2] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-6, 5/5-5, 5/6-29.  See also, Information for Voters, Ill. State Bd. Of Elections, http://www.elections.state.il.us/InfoForVoters.aspx (last visited Jul. 18, 2014).

[3] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/1A-16(b).

[4] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-50, 5/5-50, 5/6-100.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] 2014 Ill. Legis. Serv. P.A. 98-691 (H.B. 105), codified at 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-50, 5/5-50, 5/6-100.

[8] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-10, 5/5-9, 5/6-37.

[9] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-1.

[10] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-2(a).

[11] Maksym v. Bd. Of Election Comm’rs of Chicago, 242 Ill.2d 303, 319 (Ill. 2011) (“From these cases, several well-settled principles emerge. First, to establish residency, two elements are required: (1) physical presence, and (2) an intent to remain in that place as a permanent home.…Second, once residency is established, the test is no longer physical presence but rather abandonment.”)

[12] Id., see also Dillavou v. Cty Officers Electoral Bd. Of Sangamon Cty, 260 I.App.3d 127, 133 (App. Ct. of Ill., 4th Dist. 1994) (“A person can acquire a domicile if he is personally present in a place and elects that as his home even if he never intends to remain in that physical structure on a permanent basis.”).

[13] People ex rel. Madigan v. Baumgartner, 355 Ill.App.3d 842, 849–50 (Ill. App. Ct. 2005) (“Implicit in the residency requirement of intention to make a place a person's permanent home is the ability of that person to choose whether he wishes to exercise the rights afforded to a permanent resident in his new location or if he wishes to continue his residence at the home he has temporarily left.”)

[14] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[15] However, inSee People ex rel Madigan  v. Baumgartner, 355 Ill.App.3d 842, 848 (Appell. Ct. Ill, 4th Dist. 2005) (, the court noted that “the courts in Illinois have long held that a student in a college town is presumed not to have changed his residence to the town in which he is attending school.”).

[16] See People ex rel Madigan  v. Baumgartner, 355 Ill.App.3d 842, 848 (Appell. Ct. Ill, 4th Dist. 2005) (“the courts in Illinois have long held that a student in a college town is presumed not to have changed his residence to the town in which he is attending school”).

[17] Maksym v. Bd. Of Election Comm’rs of Chicago, 242 Ill.2d 303, 319 (Ill. 2011)  (“once a person has established residence, he or she can be physically absent from that residence for months or even years without having abandoned it” so long as the voter intends only a temporary absence from the state).

[18] Stein v. Cnty. Bd. of Sch. Trustees of Du Page Cnty., 40 Ill. 2d 477, 480 (1968) (intent to return – the critical element of residency - is inferred from acts).

[19] 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/6-101; 5/6-102 (driver’s licenses); 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-101 (vehicle registration); 35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/201 (income tax).

[20] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-10; 5/5-9; 5/6-37 (in certain, cities, villages and incorporated towns, you will have to appear before the board of election commissioners, not the county clerk, but the process is the same).

[21] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-13.

[22] Proof of residence may include a lease or contract for a residence and no more than one piece of mail postmarked within 30 days of the Election and addressed to you at your current residence.  10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/17-10(a). 

[23] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/17-10(a).

[24] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-5(a)(2).

[25] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-15(b).

[26] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-15(d).

[27] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.

[28] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.

[29] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.

[30] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.

[31] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.

[32] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-5.

[33] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-1.

[34] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-2.

[35] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-8(b).

[36] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-8(c).

[37] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.

[38] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19A-15.

[39] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19A-10(a–b).

[40] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/1-12.

[41] The election authority of that jurisdiction will try and populate these polling locations with ballot forms from all jurisdictions, and will make this decision based on capacity. 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/1-12(a).

[42] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/1-12(b).