The midterm elections are coming — here’s a cheat sheet to get you through


From left, candidate J.B. Pritzker, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, candidate Kash Jackson, and candidate State Sen. Sam McCann attend a televised debate at the NBC studios in Chicago on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By Ese Olumhense, Chicago Tribune

The 2018 midterm elections are fast approaching, and despite all the politicking and punditry, you likely have a few questions: What are the midterms? Who is running? How can I vote?

Consider this your Illinois midterm election cheat sheet — a quick guide to the key races, the players, the voting process and what’s at stake.

So, when are the midterms?


Nov. 6, 2018.

And what exactly are the midterms?

Midterm elections aren’t really any different than other elections. It’s just the timing. They occur at about the halfway point of the president’s four-year term.

During midterms, registered voters in every state directly elect those who will represent their districts in Congress. All 435 House members are up for election this fall, while a third of the 100 U.S. senators are up for election.

But they’re not just national.

In select states such as Illinois, voters also pick other offices, including governor, in the midterms. In some cities, mayoral elections also take place during the midterms.

What’s at stake?


There’s particular attention to this year’s election because of President Donald Trump’s polarizing administration and the balance of power in Congress. While the president’s supporters are looking for validation, his opponents are looking to this year’s elections as a way to rebuke Trump.

Republicans are hoping to maintain power in both the U.S. House and Senate, while Democrats are trying to tilt one or both chambers their way. Republicans currently hold a 236-193 majority in the House, with six vacancies, and a 51-49 edge in the Senate. (Democrats only have 47 Senate members, but Sens. Bernie Sanders — yes, him — and Angus King Jr. are Independents who caucus with them.)

Cool. Who is on the ballot in Illinois?

In addition to electing representatives in the U.S. House, Illinois voters also will choose a governor. The candidates are incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican; J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat; Sam McCann, a Downstate Republican state senator running under the Conservative Party banner; and Libertarian candidate Grayson “Kash” Jackson.

Voters also will elect a lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer. State senators and representatives will also be elected.

Who is not?

Chicago is not one of the many U.S. cities electing a mayor this year. Chicagoans won’t choose Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s successor until next year, Feb. 26, 2019. The field right now includes more than a dozen candidates. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two vote-getters will square off in an April 2 runoff.

Gotcha. How do I register to vote?

Are you a U.S. citizen? Will you be 18 by Election Day? Will you have been a resident of Illinois for at least 30 days before Nov. 6?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you can register to vote in Illinois. You’d also need two forms of ID, one of them showing your current address — if you register in person at your county clerk’s office, board of election commissioner’s office, city or village office, or even your local library, among other places.

You can also register to vote online with the State Board of Elections. You can check if you are already registered. In Illinois, residents can register online for the November election until Oct. 21. Regular registration closes Oct. 9.

Be aware though, you’re officially registered only when you’ve received your voter ID card in the mail.

Done! How do I vote? When and where can I vote?

Early voting begins Sept. 27 and ends Nov. 5. If you are officially registered to vote and 1) a member of the U.S. Armed Forces; 2) a U.S. citizen who maintains a residence in Illinois but is out of the country on Nov. 6; or 3) a state or federal employee who lived in Illinois when hired, but resides elsewhere because of that employment, you can also apply to vote by mail. (Your spouse and dependents also may qualify; find out more here.)

Vote by mail applications can be turned in 90 days through five days before the election. If you choose to vote in person find your polling place before Nov. 6.

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