Next month, Illinois voters will head to the polls to nominate candidates for the general elections in November. This week we will provide analyses of some of the issues and candidates that will be on the ballot on March 20.2018 promises to be a big year for public engagement and electoral participation specifically, and there’s no better time to get involved and help strengthen our communities.

In the meantime, here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. If you will not be able to vote in person on March 20, you can still vote! Early voting has already begun in Chicago and elsewhere in the state. If you live in Chicago, you can vote downtown between now and March 5, and then in your ward as well from March 5 until election day. The locations and hours of early voting locations are available from the Chicago Board of Elections. If you live in Evanston or elsewhere outside Chicago, the Illinois Secretary of State website gives hours and locations here, and contact information for your county’s election officials can be found here.
    votebymailimagesdIf you won’t be in town to vote early, or cannot get to the polls for some other reason, you can also vote by mail (a.k.a. absentee voting). The deadline to request a ballot by mail is March 15. So get on it quick. Information for mail-in voting for Chicago residents is available here, and non-Chicago residents is available here.
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  2. The deadline to file in person to run for your Local School Council is next week! (March 2). These councils make decisions in every Chicago Public School, and can help shape the very important policies that affect our daily lives, our families, and our neighborhoods. These are also a great way to get involved at a very local level or with little political experience, to participate in and give back to the community–and with schools and communities at the heart of Chicago politics, there are lots of important issues on the table. If you or someone you know would be a good voice on the local board, get that nomination form going. The election for this position is April 18-19, but the deadline to file as a candidate is March 2.Most residents (not only parents of students!) are eligible (but not the principal’s family!), as long as you live in the attendance area of the school. The paperwork, which you can file at the school itself up to March 2, will take more than a few minutes. Here’s some basic info from CPS on the Local School Council, a timeline of some deadlines (in English and Spanish), and some more detailed rules of the election (in English and Spanish).
  3. Time to start reading up on the primaries! Candidates for Congress, Governor, the state legislature, and more will be on the ballot this March and November. We’ll post a few more specific profiles of candidates, offices, and issues, but we can recommend BallotReady.org to help get up to speed: you can simply input your address, and they’ll tell you what will be on your ballot at all levels, as well as provide some info about the candidates (in a non-partisan way).
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Thomas Ogorzalek is co-Director of the Chicago Democracy Projeect, and Assistant Professor of Political Science and Urban Studies at Northwestern.