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You’re a college student planning to vote by mail in Illinois. What if COVID-19 sends you home but your ballot goes to your college?

Flat mail trays are seen in the parking lot of Chicago's Ravenswood Station U.S. post office on Aug. 13, 2020.

Flat mail trays are seen in the parking lot of Chicago's Ravenswood Station U.S. post office on Aug. 13, 2020. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

College students hoping to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election face extra uncertainty this year as campuses shift plans because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, students registered in Illinois can still vote by mail no matter their location.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re a student hoping to vote by mail:

College students can vote at their home or campus address, but can only register and vote in one location.

The State Board of Elections has an online voter registration application page you can fill out to register in Illinois. You could also print and send your form by mail to your local registration office, such as your county clerk, or register in person by going to a clerk or driver’s license facility.

You’ll need your Illinois driver’s license or ID number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you don’t have any of those, you can provide a government document that confirms your name and address.

Voters must be United States citizens and at least 18 years old before Election Day. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 6 if the form is sent by mail and Oct. 18 for online submissions, although people can still provisionally register to vote at an election authority or an early voting site before Election Day and at their home precinct on Election Day.

If your campus is out of state, but you hope to vote by mail in Illinois, you’ll need to apply for an absentee ballot. If you’re in the U.S., the application must be submitted to your local election office no later than Oct. 29 by mail or online, or by Nov. 2 if you’re delivering it in person.

If you’re out of the country, you must apply for an absentee ballot no later than Oct. 4.

If your ballot was sent to your campus address but your school closes or you’re sent home because of COVID-19, you’ll still have a few options, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

If you have your mail-in ballot with you, you’re advised to surrender it in person at early voting sites or your election precinct polling place, where you can then vote through a standard ballot.

If you do not have your mail-in ballot, you can contact your local election authority and file an affidavit stating you never received and returned your ballot. You might have to cast a provisional ballot, which means election authorities will have to look into your eligibility before your vote is counted, but as long as a ballot hasn’t been received and processed in your name the vote should count.

The Chicago Board of Elections recommends checking your local election authority’s website to ensure all of your information is up to date as soon as any changes to your name or location occur to prevent problems.

To update your address, you can access the Illinois Online Voter Registration Application website and start the voter registration application. There, you can input your Illinois driver’s license number or state ID to update your record. The deadline to do so is Oct. 18.

If you don’t have either form of identification to update your record online, you’ll have to print the form from the site and mail it to your local election authority with a copy of government-issued documentation or a valid photo ID.

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