The 2024 election season is here – vote in your state’s primary – or in Illinois by March 19!
Visit our Primary Elections Education Guide to learn more!

×

NUVotes

Northwestern's comprehensive 50-state voter-services hub

2023 Chicago Municipal Elections Education Guide

In 2023, Chicago is electing its local government, through a General Election on February 28th and a Runoff Election on April 4th. Use this guide to learn more about the upcoming elections and how you can participate.

  • About City Government

    Why Vote in Local Elections?

  • When Are the Elections?

    Important Dates

  • How Do I Register & Vote?

    FAQs About Registration & Voting

  • How Can I Make an Informed Decision?

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

About Chicago City Government

Chicago City Government is comprised of the Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and 50 Alderpersons. Each Alderperson represents a municipal legislative district (called a ward) in the City Council. The Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and Alderpersons are elected on a non-partisan basis to serve four-year terms. Learn more about what each office does or check which ward you live in.

This year, for the first time, Chicagoans will vote for Police District Council members. There are 22 police districts in the city, and Chicagoans will vote on three members to sit on each district’s council. These new positions were created in 2021 by an ordinance of the City Council to improve community-police relations and help shape a new model of civilian oversight of policing in the city. Learn more about these new councils.

 

Why Vote in Local Elections?

Voting determines who has the power to make decisions that affect your life. Whatever you care about – education, housing, transit, policing, economic development, environmental sustainability, issues of equity – who gets elected shapes the policies that are pursued, especially on the local level. Voting is a way to translate your passions into action. 

Voting in local elections allows you to express your opinions about how Chicago should be run and what it should prioritize during the next four years. Voting to select your elected officials makes it more likely they will represent you on important issues. It communicates your interests and priorities, and that you are paying attention and will hold elected officials accountable. 

Many local races are decided by a small number of votes, so one vote can make a big difference! 

 

 

When Are the Elections?

GENERAL ELECTION
Tuesday, February 28, 2023

 

All Offices:
Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer, Alderpersons, Police District Council Members, Referenda

 

RUNOFF ELECTION
Tuesday, April 4, 2023

 

How Does It Work?
For each office, if no candidate receives a majority (at least 50%) of the votes cast in the general election, a run-off election is held between the top two candidates.

 

Offices:
Mayor, Alderpersons in Wards 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 21, 24, 29, 30, 36, 43, 45, 46, 48

Registration

Who can register and vote in the Chicago Municipal Elections?

You can register and vote in the Chicago Municipal Elections if you are U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, a Chicago resident for at least 30 days before Election Day, and not in jail for a felony conviction. In order to vote, you first must be registered at a Chicago address.

Do I have to be registered as a Democrat or a Republican?

No. Chicago Municipal Elections are non-partisan.

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

You can check your registration status online using NU Votes’ Check Registration Tool, or for Chicago specifically, with Chicago’s Voter Information Search Tool.

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 you cannot confirm your registration from a previous election, simply re-register. 

If you have concerns about your registration, contact your local election authority. For Chicago specifically, email cboe@chicagoelections.gov or call (312)269-7900.

If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you still have the option to register and vote in Chicago through Election Day.

How can I register to vote in Chicago?

You can register to vote in advance:

General Election Runoff Election
(Opens March 2nd)
Online (Requires an IL Drivers License or State ID) By February 12th By March 19th
By Mail (Need Support with Printing & Mailing?) By January 31st  (Postmarked) By March 7th (Postmarked)

 

If you have passed these deadlines, it is not too late! You can register and vote at the same timeat any of the 50+ Early Voting sites throughout the city, or at your designated local polling place on Election Day. 

How often do I need to register?

Registration typically does not expire. However, you must update your registration if your address, name, or signature has changed. If you have registered elsewhere, or the city sends you election mail that gets returned, you may be removed from the voter rolls, so it’s always a good idea to check to make sure your registration is current.

How can I change or update my registration with my current address?

To change or update your voter registration, simply re-register. On the registration form, there will be a space to list your previous registration address (or as much as you can remember). It may take some time for election authorities to remove you from the voter rolls at your previous address, and during that time, it may appear as if you are registered in both places. That’s okay; just be sure NOT to vote or request a ballot in both places!

Is it too late to register to vote?

No. If you haven’t registered yet, it is not too late! You can still register and vote at the same time at any of the 50+ Early Voting sites throughout the city, or at your designated local polling place on Election Day. To register to vote, you must present TWO forms of ID. You will be required to cast your ballot immediately after registering.

What identification do I need to register?

To register to vote in person, 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: A lease or rental contract, a utility bill, a bank or credit card statement, a pay stub, a medical or insurance bill, a school transcript or tuition bill, a vehicle registration or insurance card, postmarked mail, etc.

To register to vote online, you must provide an Illinois driver’s license or state ID number and the last four digits of your Social Security Number. To register to vote by mail, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number only. If you register to vote by mail, you may be required to show ID (proof of identity and proof of address) the first time you vote or request or return your ballot. For help getting the IDs you need to register, see VoteRiders.

I am currently registered at different campus or permanent address. Can I change my registration to my campus or permanent address in Chicago?

Yes. 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 vote early or vote on Election Day.

To vote on Election Day (General Election: February 28th or Runoff Election: April 4th), you may go to your assigned local polling place or any or any of 50+ Vote Centers throughout the city. 

To find your local polling place, use Chicago’s Voter Information Search Tool. Note that polling places are always subject to change, even on short notice, so be sure to double check the location using the search tool above just before you go to vote.

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.

You can vote early at any of the 50+ Early Voting sites throughout the city, which are open daily for several weeks prior to each election. See Early Voting Locations & Hours.

You can also register to vote on all early voting days; note that you must present TWO forms of ID to register, and you will be required to cast your ballot immediately after registering.

Can I vote by mail? How can I request a vote-by-mail ballot?

Yes! If you are already registered to vote at your current address, you can request a vote-by-mail ballot online. If you are not yet registered to vote at your current address, you can request a vote-by-mail ballot on your online or mail-in Voter Registration Form. You should also have the option to be added to a permanent vote-by-mail list, so that you receive a mail-in ballot for future elections automatically. 

You must request a vote-by-mail ballot by February 23rd for the General Election or March 30th for the Runoff Election, though you are encouraged to submit your request as early as possible to make sure you receive your ballot on time.

Once you submit your request, you will be mailed a paper ballot to the address you choose, to complete, sign, and deliver or mail back in the enclosed return envelope.

When will I receive my ballot? How can I check on the status of my ballot? What if I don’t receive my ballot?

Vote-by-mail ballots are typically mailed approximately one month prior to Election Day, and then on an ongoing basis as requests are processed, which can take several weeks.

If you have requested a vote-by-mail ballot but have not yet received one, you can check on the status of your ballot online using Chicago’s Voter Information Search Tool. You can also e-mail cboe@chicagoelections.gov or call (312)269-7900.

If you live on campus, note that mail can sometimes take a bit longer to make its way through the campus mail system. Remember to check your mailbox regularly. You also might want to check with staff in the mail room and at the package center.

If you run into trouble (e.g. the city did not receive your ballot request, or there was a problem with it, or they mailed you a ballot but you did not receive it), you can submit a new request if there is still time, or you still have the option to vote in person, during early voting or on Election Day.

How can I return my vote-by-mail ballot?

You can deliver your completed ballot to any of the 50+ ballot drop boxes in Chicago during early voting or on Election Day.

Or to return your completed ballot by mail, simply drop your postage-paid envelope in the nearest USPS mailbox. On the Evanston Campus, mailboxes are available on the corners of Colfax and Sheridan, Foster and Sheridan, and Hinman and Sheridan. See our mailing tips to find mailbox and post office locations near you, guidance if you are mailing close to the deadline, and more.

Your ballot must be postmarked or delivered no later than Election Day, but you are encouraged to return your ballot as soon as you are able.

What identification do I need 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 proof of identity and proof of address) to vote. (This is especially true if you did not include an Illinois driver’s license or state ID number or Social Security Number on your registration form.) If you are registering during Early Voting or on Election Day, you must bring TWO forms of ID. 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. For help getting the IDs you need to vote, see VoteRiders.

You are allowed to bring notes or sample ballots with you to the voting booth and 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. You can check your registration status online using NU Votes’ Check Registration Tool, or for Chicago specifically, with Chicago’s Voter Information Search Tool. If you run into a problem, don’t panic – you still have the option to register and vote through Election Day.

How can I receive voting reminders?

If you use any of NU Votes’ online voter services tools, Vote.org will automatically send important election information, deadlines, and voting reminders via email and text. NU Votes may send occasional email updates as well. (You can unsubscribe from these at any time.) To sign up to receive voting reminders separately, use NU Votes’ Election Reminders tool.

How can I make sure my ballot is counted?

Register to vote or check or update your registration in advance if you are able.   

If you are voting by mail, request your ballot well in advance of the deadline, and check to make sure your request was received and your ballot is on the way. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully on your ballot request form as well as on the ballot and ballot envelope. Complete all fields, sign in all places required, and make sure your signature matches the signature on file with your voter registration. Finally, return your ballot well in advance of the deadline. 

If you are voting in person, be sure to bring proper IDs (including proof of identity and proof of address). Make sure your signature matches the signature on file with your voter registration. Follow the instructions carefully as you complete and submit your ballot. 

In Chicago, you can check the status of a mail-in ballot or provisional ballot online to confirm that it was received and will be counted using the Voter Information Search Tool.

What if I encounter a problem at the polls?

If you or others encounter issues at a polling place or barriers to voting, contact the National Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. If your eligibility to vote is challenged, you should still be able to vote a provisional ballot, which will be reviewed after Election Day to determine if your vote can still be counted.

What is on my ballot?

The General Election Ballot will allow you to select a single candidate for Mayor, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and your ward’s Alderperson, and up to three candidates for your Police District Council. Learn more about what each office does. 

Depending on your ward, there may be one or more referenda, or opinion questions about proposed changes to local laws, including questions on affordable housing, transit, and community benefits agreements around the Obama Center. 

In the Runoff Election, an office will only appear on the ballot if no candidate receives a majority (at least 50%) of the votes cast in the general election; in that case, the top two candidates for that office will appear on the ballot.

As a result, Mayor will appear on the ballot in all Wards, and Alderperson in Wards 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 21, 24, 29, 30, 36, 43, 45, 46, and 48.

To view a sample ballot, enter your address into Chicago’s Voter Information Search Tool. 

You can also use a resource like BallotReady or Ballotpedia 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?

Here are some ways you can educate yourself to make informed decisions about the candidates on your ballot: 

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, or you don’t want to vote for any of the candidates, 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?

To get further involved this election season, you can:  

  • Double or triple your vote (or more) by getting friends in your network to commit to vote as well. Help them make their voting plan, and send them reminders to make sure they follow through.  
  • Volunteer for a candidate’s campaign, or on behalf of a political party, issue advocacy organization, or nonprofit voter engagement organization. 
  • Work the polls! Election Judges are the backbone of successful elections: they set up equipment, check in voters, issue ballots, resolve voter questions, and report results. In Chicago, this paid position is open to U.S. citizens who are registered voters or students in Cook County. Review the qualifications and pay, and apply now to work as an Election Judge at a Chicago polling place.
  • You can also explore additional opportunities for civic engagement beyond voting 
  • In federal election seasons, consider becoming an NU Votes Ambassador. Join our mailing list to learn about future opportunities (select Interested in NU Votes).
How can I participate in elections if I’m not eligible to vote?

Great question! There are many ways to be civically engaged beyond voting. You might also want to learn more about the programs and services offered by the Center for Civic Engagement. 

Other questions? Need more information?

Sources & Additional Resources: 
Chicago City Clerk – About City Government (Chicago) 
Chicago Board of Elections – Registration & Voting Information (Chicago) 
Illinois State Board of Elections – Registration & Voting Information (Illinois) 
Vote.org – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States) 
US Vote Foundation – Election & Voting Information (All 50 States)

Other Questions? 
The NU Votes staff and student team is standing by to help! Email nuvotes@northwestern.eduOr contact the Chicago Board of Elections at cboe@chicagoelections.gov or (312)269-7900. 

 

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.