tom.arthur/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In the past, Ann Quackenbush would wake up early on election day to get to her polling place. The elementary school teacher in Champaign says it was often hard to make time to vote during a busy school day.

For the primary last March, she tried something different – mailing in her ballot before election day.

“It is just incredibly convenient,” said Quackenbush, who has already requested a mail-in ballot for the mid-terms in November.

This week, NPR is focusing on voting across the country in a series of reports called A Nation Engaged. As part of the project, NPR Illinois took a look at issues affecting voters in our state.

Legislation that would automatically register Illinois residents to vote when they have interactions with the state — like renewing a drivers license — is  on the governor’s desk.

Illinois Issues: A Schooling in Democracy

May 5, 2016
Chicago Public Schools Board of Education

State lawmakers are considering whether school board members in Chicago should be elected — as they are in all other Illinois school districts.

 At least a dozen Republicans are chasing the party's presidential nomination. But which of them will get a boost from Illinois' new, and privately wealthy, Republican governor?

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Former Peoria Republican Congressman Aaron Schock's fall from political grace set in motion an unexpected special election, and that has unexpected consequences for county clerks.

On July 7, primary voters in the 18th Congressional district will get their first crack at choosing who'll represent them in D.C., following Aaron Schock's resignation.

Jamey Dunn
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Election season cast a long shadow on 2014. We saw the most expensive and one of the ugliest fights for the governor’s office in the state’s history. Now Illinois has a Republican governor for the first time in more than a decade. Meanwhile in the legislature, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton were both able to hang on to veto-proof majorities in their respective chambers, despite some aggressive challenges mounted by Republican candidates.


Illinois students could get a day off of school come election day. Schools are often at the heart of a community, metaphorically, if not literally. That's part of the reason they've long been voting sites.

But with shootings at schools across the country, some lawmakers are concerned the practice is dangerous.

Most of the time visitors need to sign in before entering a school; they say allowing anyone in on election day is asking for trouble.

Sheila Simon

The Illinois Senate has approved a multi-faceted change to the state's election laws. The legislation is almost as notable for what it does not do, as for what it does.

The proposal would make dozens of changes to state law, including online voter registration. But until Wednesday, the legislation also would have changed how Illinois gets a lieutenant governor.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Has the time come for Illinois to reconsider the manner in which it selects its judges?

The question seems timely: A campaign finance reform task force is weighing public financing for judicial elections, in part to counter a generally held public view that campaign contributions affect courtroom decisions. Meanwhile, dozens of candidates for judicial posts — from the Illinois Supreme Court to circuit court — are scurrying to raise money for next year’s primary and general elections. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In a few days, conscientious Illinois residents will bundle themselves up and trudge through midwinter weather to their nearest polling places, intent on doing their civic duty for the February 2 primary election.

Indeed, tens of thousands already have done so, taking advantage of an early voting period that opened before the Christmas lights were down and the decorations put away for another year.

One suspects many of them will be asking the same question: Why are we doing this NOW?

Dana Heupel
NPR Illinois

Not long ago, I was complaining to a friend and colleague about a previous political campaign. “Why does it have to be so incredibly negative?” I grumbled. His simple reply: “It works.”

My friend, one of the better-known political writers in the state, is a pragmatist. He wasn’t endorsing the tactic; just stating a fact.

Well, it doesn’t work for me. After months of following the backs-and-forths of this year’s presidential campaign like a political tennis match, I am so sick of the negativity — from both camps — that I’m ready to check “None of the above” on the ballot.

Candidates in the running to win Illinois' presidential primaries:

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York 
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Democrats hope to extend their slight majority in the Illinois congressional delegation, and the outcome of the February 5 primary races will play a role. 

State Rep. Kurt Granberg spells out one theme in this election season: "I feel like the island is sinking and there are sharks in the water."

Granberg is a 19-year incumbent Democrat representing a House district bound by three Republican-controlled districts. The state GOP hopes to take his seat on November 7, and it smells blood.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Candidates who dare to be different need a lot of stars to align before they can win public office. It's hard to say whether that could happen for Eric Wallace before November; yet the state Senate candidate has what it takes to break all kinds of stereotypes.

He's a doctorate-holding minister, a veteran and a businessman. The resident of Matteson in Chicago's south suburbs is unusual in that he's seeking office as an African-American Republican.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Had your flu shot? Some public health officials are expecting a record number of Americans to receive the influenza vaccine this fall, with demand for the shots driven by people's recollection of last year's shortage and their concern about the virulent avian flu slowly making its way toward the western hemisphere.

Pat Guinane
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As an especially close election enters its final stage, George W. Bush and John Kerry are courting a small but increasingly significant minority: undecided voters. In most polls, they make up about 5 percent of likely voters, comparable to the single-digit gap between the two presidential candidates.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is justice for sale in Illinois? A lot of people think so. That worries folks like Cindi Canary, and it ought to worry all of us.

“I think there’s a growing perception that’s the case,” says Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “In 2002, people expressed a lot of concern about conflicts of interest, about the players in the campaign ending up being the players in the courtroom.”

News: Election 2004

Jul 1, 2004

Protracted budget dispute produces positives for prison workers, state colleges and business

Fifty-four days and 17 special sessions after its scheduled May 31 adjournment date, the Illinois General Assembly approved a $45.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The other shoe appears poised to drop on Illinois’ cash-strapped local governments.

Already reeling from new waste water permit fees imposed by the state, local officials now also face steep costs to comply with a federal mandate for election reform.

Under the Help America Vote Act, enacted last year in the wake of the Florida vote counting debacle in 2000, election authorities must:

Patrick E. Gauen
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mark Von Nida knew what he wanted to do, but building a consensus was something else. Who, after all, gives a hoot about boring election machinery?

Until 30 years ago, the voters of Madison County did fine with pens, scratching an "X" beside each of their favorite candidates' names. Voting machines nearly the size of refrigerators sped up the counting in 1970. But after just eight years, officials got tired of the hauling costs and hernia risks and switched to punch cards. Those were easily portable and reasonably fast to count.

Mike Cramer

Republicans screamed bloody murder last election night when the TV networks prematurely called Florida for Al Gore - still more proof, supporters of George W. Bush fumed, of liberal bias in the news media.

Robert W. McChesney would not buy that premise. Probably he would argue that even if it were true - if all newsrooms were populated by liberal zealots - it would hardly matter.