NUVotes

Northwestern's comprehensive 50-state voter-registration hub

2018 Midterm Elections Education Guide

The 2018 General Elections will be held on Tuesday, November 6th, for most of Congress, most state Governors, and more. Use this guide to learn more about the upcoming elections and how you can participate.

  • What are the Midterms?

    Why Do They Matter?

  • How Do I Register & Vote?

    FAQs About Registration & Voting in All 50 States

  • When Are the Deadlines?

    Registration & Absentee Voting Deadlines by State

  • How Can I Make an Informed Decision?

    What's On My Ballot? How Do I Decide?

NUVotes helps students register to vote at their campus or permanent address across the country.

What are the Midterms? Why Do They Matter?

On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, General Elections will be held in every state. These elections are commonly called Midterm Elections, as they are held midway through each presidential term.

In these upcoming elections, voters will choose every member of the US House of Representatives (435), one third of US Senators (34), more than two thirds of state governors (36), and the vast majority of state legislators (over 6,000), in addition to countless other state and local officials, and changes to state and local laws.

With control of Congress and state legislatures and so many local and national issues at stake, your voice – and your vote – matters.

 

Where Should I Vote? Should I Vote In Illinois or In My Home State?

As a college student, you have the legal right to register and vote at either your campus address or your permanent address. You may wish to consider where you feel more connected to your community or more informed about local issues, how you prefer to participate in the process (for instance, voting by mail or voting in person), or where you feel your vote will make the greatest impact.

How Do I Register & Vote?

In Illinois
In Other States

Registering and Voting in Illinois

Registering

How do I know if or where I’m registered to vote?

You can check your registration status online through vote.org, or through your local election authority. Check the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois.

What if my election authority says I’m not registered?

If you registered recently, it often takes several weeks for registration requests to be processed. If your record cannot be located, or you have concerns about your registration, contact your local election authority. For Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), e-mail Voter.Reg@cookcountyil.gov or call (312)603-0906. For Chicago, e-mail cboe@chicagoelections.net or call (312)269-7900. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you still have the option to register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

How can I register to vote or update my registration with my current address?
By Mail (Come to CCE to Print & Mail) October 9th
Online (Requires an IL Drivers License or State ID)      October 21st

If you have passed these deadlines, it is not too late! Register and vote on the same day, through Grace Period Registration.

Is it too late to register to vote?

No. If you haven’t registered yet, it is not too late!

Grace Period Registration
Grace Period Registration allows you to register and vote on the same day, up to the day before the election.

If you live in Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), you can register and vote at the Evanston Civic Center (2100 Ridge Ave, Room G300) during the following dates and times:

October 22nd – October 28th
Monday–Friday 9am–5pm
Saturday 9am–5pm
Sunday 10am–4pm

October 29th – November 5th
Monday–Friday 9am–7pm
Saturday 9am–5pm
Sunday 10am–4pm

NU Votes is offering a Voter Van from Norris to the Evanston Civic Center, Thursday & Friday, November 1st & 2nd and Monday, November 5th from 11am–7pm.

If you live in Chicago, you can register and vote at any of 51 locations throughout the city, during comparable dates and times. See Grace Period Registration & Voting Locations & Hours for Chicago Residents.

To register to vote through Grace Period Registration, you must present TWO forms of ID. You should be prepared to cast your ballot immediately after registering.

Election Day Registration
You can also register to vote on Election Day at your polling place with TWO forms of ID. However, you may wish to register and vote before Election Day, to avoid the possibility of longer wait times.

What do I need to bring to register?

To register to vote, you must present TWO two forms of ID:

  1. Something that proves your identity: A Wildcard, driver’s license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, or social security card
  2. Something that shows your current address: Postmarked mail, a utility bill, a bank or credit card statement, a pay stub, a lease or rental contract, or in Evanston, a printout from CAESAR that shows your local address (CAESAR > Main Menu > Personal Profile > My Addresses)
I am currently registered at my permanent address. Can I change my registration to my campus address?

Yes. College students have a legal right to register and vote at either their permanent address or their campus address.

Voting

Where do I vote? Where is my polling place? When are the polls open?

You have the option to either early vote or vote on Election Day. To vote on Election Day (Tuesday, November 6th), you must go to your assigned polling place.

To find your polling place, use the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois.

If you are registered to vote with an on-campus address, your polling place is either Patten Gym (for north campus – 2407 Sheridan) or Parkes Hall (for south campus – 1870 Sheridan).

On Election Day, all polling places are open from 6 AM to 7 PM.

Can I vote early?

Yes. Early voting allows you to avoid lines at the polls on Election Day by casting your ballot ahead of time, at a time that is convenient for you.

If you live in Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), you can vote at the Evanston Civic Center (2100 Ridge Ave, Room G300) during the following dates and times:

October 22nd – October 28th
Monday–Friday 9am–5pm
Saturday 9am–5pm
Sunday 10am–4pm

October 29th – November 5th
Monday–Friday 9am–7pm
Saturday 9am–5pm
Sunday 10am–4pm

NU Votes is offering a Voter Van from Norris to the Evanston Civic Center, Thursday & Friday, November 1st & 2nd and Monday, November 5th from 11am–7pm.

If you live in Chicago, you can early vote at any of 51 locations throughout the city, during comparable dates and times. See Early Voting Locations & Hours for Chicago Residents.

If you are registered in another county in Illinois, see Early Voting Locations & Hours by County (be sure to choose 2018 General Election).

You can register to vote on all early voting days; however, you must present TWO forms of ID to do so.

Can I vote by mail?

If you are already registered to vote in Illinois, you have the option to Vote by Mail. Request a Vote By Mail Ballot for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois. You must request a Vote by Mail Ballot by November 1st, though you are encouraged to apply as early as possible to make sure you receive your ballot on time. You will be mailed a paper ballot to complete, sign, and mail or deliver back. Your ballot must be postmarked by Election Day. Stop by CCE if you need help returning your Vote by Mail ballot.

If you have requested a Vote by Mail Ballot but have not yet received one, contact your local election authority to check on the status of your ballot application. If you encounter further issues, consider voting in person – you still have the option to either early vote or vote on Election Day.

What do I need to bring to vote? What can I take with me into the voting booth?

If you registered to vote by mail, and are voting for the first time at your current registration address, you may be required to show ID (including a current photo ID and proof of residence) to vote. Otherwise, in Illinois, you are NOT required to show ID to vote. However, we recommend bringing a Wildcard or other photo ID just in case.

You are allowed to bring notes or sample ballots with you to the voting booth and to look up information on your phone. However, in Illinois, you may NOT take any photos of your ballot or inside the polling place.

What if I don’t have my Voter Registration Card?

You do NOT need your Voter Registration Card to vote. However, you must be registered. Make sure to verify your registration status online through vote.org, or through your local election authority. Check the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County), Chicago, or elsewhere in Illinois. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you still have the option to register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

Registering and Voting in Other States

Registering

How do I know if or where I’m registered to vote?

You can check your registration status online through vote.org, or through your local election authority.

What if my election authority says I’m not registered?

If you registered recently, it often takes several weeks for registration requests to be processed. If your record cannot be located, or you have concerns about your registration, contact your local election authority. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you may still have time to register to vote in your state; or you can register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

How can I register to vote or update my registration with my current address?

First, make sure there is still time to register or update your registration before your state’s deadline. Most states have voter registration deadlines between 7 and 30 days prior to each election, though some states allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day. To view the registration deadlines for your state, see Registration Deadlines by State.

To register or update your registration in any state, come to the Center for Civic Engagement (1813 Hinman Ave in Evanston, Monday–Friday 9am–5pm), or use our online Voter Registration Tool. (If the submission of paper forms or any other steps are required, NU Votes can assist with printing, mailing, copies of IDs, etc.)

States typically allow registration in person, by mail, and increasingly, online. In many states, registrants may be able to complete the entire process online (particularly when you are using a state-issued photo ID from that state to register). View a list of states that allow full online registration. However, in some cases, you will need to take additional steps like printing, signing, and mailing forms, submitting copies of IDs, etc.

Because of this, we encourage you to take advantage of NU Votes’ in-person voter registration assistance, where you can be sure to complete the process fully and accurately and get any questions answered. If you prefer to use the online Voter Registration Tool to register yourself (or at least to start the process), NU Votes can assist with printing, mailing, copies of IDs, etc., as needed. Or, the tool will give you instructions on how to complete the process on your own if you wish.

What identification do I need to register?

When you are registering by mail or online, most states will request an in-state driver’s license or state-issued ID number (do not use an out-of-state number), OR if you do not have one, the last four digits of your social security number. Some states may request or require your full social security number, or may request or require both a license or state ID number and the last four digits of your social security number.

If you are registering in person, or the first time you vote if you registered by mail, you may also be asked to show ID, including something that proves your identity (a driver’s license, state ID, passport, birth certificate, or social security card) and something that shows your current address (postmarked mail, a utility bill, a bank or credit card statement, a pay stub, a lease or rental contract, etc.).

I am currently registered at my campus address. Can I change my registration to my permanent address?

Yes. College students have a legal right to register and vote at either their permanent address or their campus address.

Voting – If I Will Be In State for the Election

Where do I vote? Where is my polling place? When are the polls open?

To find your polling place, use the Polling Place Locator for your state.

Polling places generally open between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and close between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. For the specific hours for your state, see Polling Place Hours by State.

What do I need to bring to vote? What can I take with me into the voting booth?

Most states request or require some form of ID in order to vote, either for all voters, or only those who registered by mail and are voting for the first time at their current registration address. As a result, while it may not be required, we recommend bringing ID (including a current photo ID and proof of residence) when you go to vote. For the specific rules for your state, see Voter ID Requirements by State.

As a general rule, you are allowed to bring notes or sample ballots with you to the voting booth and to look up information on your phone. However, in some states, you are NOT allowed to take photos of your ballot or inside the polling place.

What if I don’t have my Voter Registration Card?

You do NOT need your Voter Registration Card to vote. However, you must be registered. Make sure to verify your registration status online through vote.org, or through your local election authority. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you may still have time to register to vote in your state; or you can register and vote in Illinois through Election Day.

Voting – If I Will Be Out of State for the Election

Can I vote early? Can I vote by mail?

Most states allow early voting (or in-person absentee voting), from 3 days up to 30 or even 45 days prior to each election. To view early voting options for your state, see this Early Voting Calendar by State.

All states allow absentee voting for voters who request it. Some states may require voters to provide an excuse, but even in those states, there will always be an excuse applicable to college students (such as being a college student by occupation, temporarily living or traveling outside the jurisdiction on Election Day, or being otherwise unavoidably absent or unable to make it to the polling place on Election Day).

In most states, voters must request an Absentee Ballot for each election. Some states offer a permanent absentee ballot list; once a voter is added to this list, s/he will receive an absentee ballot for each election automatically. And a few states conduct their elections entirely by mail for all voters.

To view absentee voting or vote by mail options for your state, see Absentee and Early Voting by State.

How do I request an absentee ballot?

First, make sure there is still time to request an absentee ballot before your state’s deadline. Most states recommend submitting your absentee ballot request at least one month prior to the election, though some states will continue to accept absentee ballot requests one week prior or sometimes even less. View Absentee Ballot Deadlines by State. You are encouraged to apply as early as possible to make sure you receive your ballot on time.

To request an absentee ballot for any state, come to the Center for Civic Engagement (1813 Hinman Ave in Evanston, Monday–Friday 9am–5pm), or use our online Absentee Ballot Request Tool. (If the submission of paper forms or any other steps are required, NU Votes can assist with printing, mailing, copies of IDs, etc.)

States typically allow absentee ballot requests to be submitted in person, by mail, and sometimes by fax or email. In some states, registered voters may be able to request absentee ballots entirely online. However, in most cases, you will need to take additional steps like printing, signing, and mailing forms, submitting copies of IDs, etc.

Because of this, we encourage you to take advantage of NU Votes’ in-person voter registration assistance, where you can be sure to complete the process fully and accurately and get any questions answered. If you prefer to use the online Absentee Ballot Request Tool (at least to start the process), NU Votes can assist with printing, mailing, copies of IDs, etc., as needed. Or, the tool will give you instructions on how to complete the process on your own if you wish.

Once you submit your request, you will be mailed a paper ballot to the address you choose, to complete, sign, and return. In some cases, you may be able to download a ballot, or receive one via fax or email.

How do I return my absentee ballot?

Completed absentee ballots can typically be returned by mail or in person, though some states may allow ballots to be returned by fax or email. Your ballot should provide instructions on how, where, and when to return it.

In most states, absentee ballots must be received by the time polls close on Election Day; however, some states may have slightly earlier deadlines, and some states may continue to accept absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. View Absentee Ballot Deadlines by State. You are encouraged to return your ballot at least one week prior to Election Day to ensure it is received on time.

If you need help with mailing or simply need an envelope and a stamp, come to the Center for Civic Engagement (1813 Hinman Ave in Evanston, Monday–Friday 9am–5pm).

Where is my absentee ballot? What if I didn’t receive my absentee ballot?

If you have requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received one, contact your local election authority to confirm that they received your absentee ballot application and verify there were no errors in processing.

Some states will allow you to track your absentee ballot online. At vote.org, there are links for each state’s ‘Election Center’ at the bottom of the page. On your state’s page, under ‘Offsite Links’, there will be a link to an ‘Absentee Ballot Tracker Tool’ if your state offers one. If not, look up the contact information for your local election authority and contact them directly via phone or email.

If you run into trouble (e.g. they say they have mailed you a ballot but you have not received it), they should be able to help you identify a variety of alternative solutions, which will vary by state.

Hover over your state to view voter registration deadlines and absentee ballot request and return deadlines. Click on your state for more detailed information. Visit your state’s board of elections website to confirm these deadlines and access forms and more information.
Tap on your state to view voter registration deadlines and absentee ballot request and return deadlines.

Source: vote.org

What’s On My Ballot? How Do I Decide?

In Illinois
In Other States

Educating Yourself — Illinois

What's on my ballot?

The Midterm Elections in Illinois will determine who will serve in all statewide offices, including Governor and Attorney General, as well as all of Illinois’ Representatives in Congress, all State Representatives and the majority of State Senators, county officials, and more. In Cook County, Evanston, and Chicago, there are also several opinion questions about proposed changes to local laws, including questions on minimum wage, paid sick time, and gun control (all of Cook County), questions on real estate taxes and historic preservation (Evanston only), and questions on marijuana revenues, real estate taxes, environmental regulations, mayoral term limits, and consumer advocacy (Chicago only).

To view a sample ballot, enter your address into the Voter Information Search Tools for Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County) or Chicago.

You can also use a resource like BallotReady, Ballotpedia, or Vote411 to view your sample ballot and research detailed, nonpartisan information on candidate profiles and positions at the same time.

How can I educate myself? How do I decide who to vote for?

Use a resource like BallotReady, Ballotpedia, or Vote411 to research detailed, nonpartisan information on each candidate’s profiles and positions.

You may also wish to review candidates’ websites and candidate questionnaires, read local news articles, and attend or view candidate debates and forums before voting.

Consider candidate questionnaires and editorial board endorsements by local news media such as the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Tonight. Also check whether local parties or political organizations you are aware of or involved with have made endorsements. For judges, consider local bar association recommendations.

Do I have to vote for every office on the ballot?

No! If you don’t feel sufficiently informed about a particular office, set of candidates, or issue, you can choose to leave that category blank. This does not invalidate your ballot – your other selections will still be counted.

How can I get more involved?

Consider volunteering for a candidate’s campaign (visit your preferred candidate’s website to learn more) or working as an Election Judge at a polling place in Evanston (or anywhere in suburban Cook County) or Chicago on Election Day.

Sources & Additional Resources

Evanston City Clerk – Registration & Voting Information (Evanston)
Cook County Clerk – Registration & Voting Information (Suburban Cook County)
Chicago Board of Elections – Registration & Voting Information (Chicago)
Illinois State Board of Elections – Registration & Voting Information (Illinois)
BallotReady – Sample Ballots & Voter Guide (All 50 States)
Ballotpedia – Sample Ballots & Voter Guide (All 50 States)
Vote411.org – Information About Candidates & Referenda (All 50 States)
Vote.org – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)
Canivote.org – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)
US Vote Foundation – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)

Other Questions?

If you have additional questions about registration or voting, please contact your local election authority. You can also stop by the Center for Civic Engagement (1813 Hinman Ave), tweet @NUVotes, Facebook message NU Votes, or email nuvotes@northwestern.edu, and we will do our best to assist you.

Educating Yourself – Other States

What's on my ballot?

The upcoming Midterm Elections will determine who will serve in a number of national, statewide, and local offices. Depending on your state, this might include US Representatives, US Senators, Governor, State Representatives and Senators, other state and local officials, and proposed changes to state and local laws.

You can typically view a sample ballot on your local election authority’s website. Or use a resource like BallotReady, Ballotpedia, or Vote411 to view a sample ballot and research detailed, nonpartisan information on candidate profiles and positions at the same time.

How can I educate myself? How do I decide who to vote for?

Use a resource like BallotReady, Ballotpedia, or Vote411 to research detailed, nonpartisan information on each candidate’s profiles and positions.

You may also wish to review candidates’ websites and candidate questionnaires, read local news articles, and attend or view candidate debates and forums before voting.

Consider candidate questionnaires and editorial board endorsements by local newspapers. Also check whether local parties or political organizations you are aware of or involved with have made endorsements. For judges, consider local bar association recommendations.

Do I have to vote for every office on the ballot?

No! If you don’t feel sufficiently informed about a particular office, set of candidates, or issue, you can choose to leave that category blank. This does not invalidate your ballot – your other selections will still be counted.

How can I get more involved?

Consider volunteering for a candidate’s campaign (visit your preferred candidate’s website to learn more) or working at a polling place on Election Day (contact your local election authority to learn more).

Sources & Additional Resources

BallotReady – Sample Ballots & Voter Guide (All 50 States)
Ballotpedia – Sample Ballots & Voter Guide (All 50 States)
Vote411.org – Information About Candidates & Referenda (All 50 States)
Vote.org – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)
Canivote.org – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)
US Vote Foundation – Registration & Voting Information (All 50 States)

Other Questions?

If you have additional questions about registration or voting, please contact your local election authority. You can also stop by the Center for Civic Engagement (1813 Hinman Ave), tweet @NUVotes, Facebook message NU Votes, or email nuvotes@northwestern.edu, and we will do our best to assist you.

Be A Part of Northwestern's Voting Culture.

Please note: The information here was compiled from publicly available sources in an effort to help provide students with non-partisan information that they may need to know in order to register correctly and vote in upcoming elections. Northwestern University does not endorse or oppose any candidate or organization in connection with this or any other political campaign or election. Students are responsible for working with their own local election officials to ensure their own correct registration and to verify local laws and policies about voting in their respective districts.