Guide to Voting and Poll-Working in 2020

Source: Hillary Levin, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

It’s that time of year again and voter registration deadlines are coming up fast! We have compiled a list of resources and guides for voting in-person, absentee, and mail-in voting in Missouri and Illinois. If you are registered in another state, we also provide links to non-partisan resources for all states. This election is expected to have a very high turnout in person and in the mail. To make your voting go as smoothly as possible, make any requests as early as you can!

Voting Dates and Deadlines

November 3rd ElectionMissouriIllinois
Last day to Register to VoteOctober 7October 6 (by mail)


October 18 (online)

November 3rd (grace period, check local authority)

Early Voting OpensSeptember 22 (see below)September 24
Mail-in Vote Request Delivered to Election Authority byOctober 21October 29
Mail-in/Absentee BallotNovember 3, 7:00 pm (received)November 3, 7:00 pm (postmarked)

How to Check if You’re Registered

Missouri and Illinois both allow you to check your voter registration online. If you are unsure how to check your voter registration in another state, you can use resources such as the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) or nonprofitvote, which will direct you to your local election resources. Some states periodically “purge” inactive voters from their rolls, so it is important to check your registration. 

How to Register

Many states allow you to register to vote online through the secretary of state websites, including Missouri and Illinois. NASS and nonprofitvote provide links to individual state voter registration information as well. Additionally, Washington University in St. Louis has partnered with TurboVote to aid voter registration and provide election reminders.

Some tips for online voter registration:

  • Missouri requires voter registrations to be signed. If you complete the application on a touch screen device (such as a phone or tablet), you can sign digitally and will not have to mail in any physical forms.
  • Illinois will require some form of identification, such as a driver’s license, to complete the registration online. Pay attention to what information the application needs before you start the application.
  • Your registration application may take some time to process. Once you have submitted your application, check your registration in 2-3 weeks to contact your local Board of Elections if you have questions or concerns (Missouri, Illinois).
  • Make sure you know which county you need to register in. Some borders, such as the one between St. Louis County and St. Louis City can be confusing.

If you would like more information on how to vote in your state, you can find your state specific video on the How to Vote in Every State YouTube channel, or you can check out

Absentee and Mail-in Voting

Absentee and mail-in voting are both terms that you might be hearing a lot about this election. In some states, such as Illinois, there are no distinctions between the two. In others, such as Missouri, there is a difference in who qualifies for each type, how they can be requested, and how they can be turned in (see below). Vote411 has posted a list of how policies around absentee and mail-in voting have changed by state in response to COVID. For 2020, both Missouri and Illinois are allowing all registered voters to vote by mail, and details for how to do so are listed below. To find out how to vote absentee and/or by mail in another state, find their policy through Vote411 or NASS.

If you want to vote by mail or absentee in any form, it is a good idea to do it as early as possible.

Absentee and Mail-in Voting in Missouri

Typically, Missouri only allows voters to request an absentee ballot (which can be mailed in, delivered in-person to the election authority, or filled out at the election authority) if they meet one of 6 eligibility criteria, such as being gone from the state or confined due to incarceration or illness. Due to the COVID pandemic, Missouri has authorized mail-in voting for all 2020 elections without cause, and expanded the allowed reasons to request an absentee ballot to include having COVID or being considered at-risk for the disease. 

Functionally, an absentee ballot and a mail-in ballot are almost identical. Both require that you fill out a request form (choose Absentee Ballot Request or Mail-in Ballot Request) either at the election authority or by mail (absentee requests can also be faxed or emailed). When you receive your ballot, you will need to have it notarized unless you requested an absentee ballot because you are confined due to injury or illness or are in an at-risk category for COVID. Both ballots have to be received by the election authority by 7:00 on the day of the election. Mail-in ballots can only be mailed, but absentee ballots can be delivered in-person. If you are able to vote absentee, you may do so at the election authority in-person starting September 22nd, and will not need to find a notary.

WashU has a list of notaries on campus, found at the OTM website under “Resources”. Additionally, ProSPER will be hosting notary days and can put you in contact with a notary on campus if you contact us. If you need to find a notary outside of campus, you can use a resource such as notarypublicstamps or MOtary Connections to find a notary near you. You can also contact your election authority, bank, post office or UPS store to see if they have a notary available. Notaries are required to waive fees for absentee ballots and the MO secretary of state has compiled a list of notaries who will waive fees for mail-in ballots.

More information on mail-in and absentee voting in St. Louis can be found at the Secretary of State website.

Absentee and Mail-in Voting in Illinois

Illinois allows no-cause early voting in person and mail-in voting by the deadlines listed above. The website provides a list of locations for in-person voting by county and the mail-in ballot requests will have the return address printed on the form.

Polling Locations and What’s on the Ballot

Many Secretary of State websites, including Missouri and Illinois, will allow you to locate your polling location and see what issues will be on your ballot. Because many counties have their own election authorities, you may need to look at your local election authority if you have problems with the secretary of state website.

In addition to sample ballots, nonprofits such as ballotpedia and vote411 provide information on candidates and issues.

Being a Poll-worker

If you want to be more involved with the election process, signing up to be a poll-worker is a great way to contribute. Poll-worker positions are often paid and are managed by individual election authorities such as St. Louis County, St. Louis City, and East St. Louis. If you sign up to be a poll worker, you will be expected to attend a training and work the day of the election. Duties can include setting up polling locations, signing in voters, helping voters with disabilities, and closing polling locations.

ProSPER will be hosting Q&As with St. Louis City and County poll workers as well as sign-up drives leading up to the election.

We hope that this information helps everyone get registered and ready to vote in November and in other future elections! If you have other questions, please comment below and we will try to help research them.

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