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What you need to know about voting in the Chicago mayoral election

Chicago voting polling place
Photograph: Shutterstock

In exactly one week, Chicagoans will decide who will become the city's next mayor. Whether it's your first or 40th time voting in the city, you may have a few questions about the process. If you're ready to head to the polls (or you're just trying to figure out where exactly the polls are), take a look at our simple guide to voting in the Chicago mayoral election.

When is election day?

Chicago's mayoral and aldermanic election falls on Tuesday, February 26 and polls are open from 6am to 7pm.

Who's up for election?

This election will decide the city's new mayor and aldermen that represent each of Chicago's 50 wards. Since Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided not to seek a third term, there's a crowded field of challengers looking to take his job. There are currently 14 candidates competing to be named Chicago's next mayor, the most in the city's history. That means you'll need to do some research before you head to the polls—Chi.Vote's guide to each candidate's stance on major issues is a good place to start. You'll also vote for the City Clerk (incumbent Anna Valencia is running unopposed) and City Treasurer (Melissa Conyears-Ervin, Ameya Pawar or Peter Gariepy).

Why is it important to vote for an alderman?

Your ward's alderman is almost like the king or queen of your neighborhood and is one of the first people you should contact if you have an issue. The alderman's office helps fix potholes on your street, issues permits for street festivals, decides which businesses get liquor licenses and has the power to approve (or deny) rezoning of properties to make them eligible for redevelopment. Elected every four years, your alderman is your neighborhood's voice in City Hall and is given roughly $1 million each year to spend on improvements in their ward. You should vote for an aldermanic candidate that you feel has the best interest of your ward (and everyone who lives in it) in mind. To learn more about the aldermanic race in your neighborhood, type in your address at Chi.Vote.

Can I vote early?

Yes! In-person early voting has been available since January 28. You can vote either at the Loop Super Site (175 W Washington) or at any of the 50 ward sites. Just remember, on Election Day, you can only vote at your assigned ward site. Early voting hours are as follows:

Tuesday, Feb 19–Friday, Feb 22: 9am–7pm

Saturday, Feb 23: 9am–5pm

Sunday, Feb 24: 10am–4pm

Monday, Feb 25: 9am–5pm

Where do I show up if I'm voting on election day?

Type in your address here to see where your election day polling place is located. Your ballot won't count if you vote in the wrong ward, so be sure to update your voter registration here if your address has changed since the last time you voted.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, but to receive a ballot you must first submit a Vote By Mail application that can either be filled out here or at the Board of Education offices (69 W Washington). The deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot is Thursday, February 21 at 5pm.

How do I register to vote?

You can register to vote on election day, but only at your assigned ward voting site. Registering at in-person early voting is also an option. If you're registering physically then you'll need to bring two forms of ID, including at least one that lists your current address. Want to check if you're already registered to vote? Enter your address here.

Do I need to bring my ID to vote?

Yes and no. If your address has changed and you're voting at your polling place for the first time, then yes, you'll need your government issued ID. If you're already registered to vote and have voted at your polling place before, then you don't need your ID.

What happens if a mayoral candidate doesn't win a majority of the vote?

To win the mayoral election in Chicago, a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote on election day. If this doesn’t happen, then a runoff election between the top two candidates will occur on April 2, 2019. With so many candidates in the running, it's pretty likely that you'll be voting again in April to decide Mayor Emanuel's successor.

Should I vote?

Yes, yes, yes! Every vote counts and every Chicago resident should have an interest in helping decide the future of the city we call home.

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