Vote with Confidence, in Person or by Mail. But Vote.

Running a safe and secure election isn't easy during a pandemic. State and local election officials throughout Illinois are rising to the challenge.

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Perhaps sensing the daunting one-two combination of “unprecedented circumstances” and “momentous consequences” all in the same election, Illinois voters have smashed previous election records. Compared to 2016, there have been four times as many requests for mail-in ballots (1 in 4 voters has requested one), and three times as many people turned out on the first day of early voting.

As of Oct. 16, nearly a million Illinoisans had already voted, contributing to the more than 10 million ballots cast nationwide via mail or early voting.

Voters aren’t alone in their enthusiasm for democracy. Anheuser-Busch donated nearly 3,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to polling locations across the state. The Chicago Bulls designated Election Day as a paid day off for all employees. Even Gen Z-ers are getting involved, signing up to work as election judges so their grandmothers don’t have to.

We’ve all had to mobilize to protect and exercise our constitutional right and civic responsibility to vote in large part because we’ve lacked leadership and urgency from the federal government. It has fallen to state and local governments to make it safer to vote during a global pandemic and ensure that every voting option is a viable one.

An emergency election law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in June encourages vote by mail and early in-person voting to avoid crowded polls on Nov. 3. It also requires measures to protect the health of voters and poll workers.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has devoted his energy to loudly questioning the integrity of vote by mail, weakening the postal service and issuing unsubstantiated warnings about a rigged election.

You’ve probably heard anecdotal horror stories like the one about mail carriers tampering with ballots and selling them. Does this mean the process can’t be trusted? Hardly. Guess who flagged the discrepancy? The county clerk, who noticed that the ballot requests seemed altered and alerted the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office to begin an investigation.

Look, I’m not here to tell you that fraud doesn’t happen.

It does happen on rare occasions (though you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit mail voting fraud), and is rightfully punished. But the coordinated, systemic election fraud that is constantly being shouted about?

Nah. And why not?

Because your local election officials have a plan for that on top of everything else they do, from supervising the vote count to registering voters to training election judges.

Conspiring to impersonate a dead uncle? Election authorities have a system to verify the identity of voters, including employing a bipartisan panel of election judges to scrutinize signatures on top of using information such as a voter’s address, birthday and driver’s license or Social Security number to match against their voter rolls.

Hatching a plan to steal some ballots? Many election authorities use bar codes on ballot envelopes to allow voters to track their ballots and know when they’ve been received and processed. For voters who don’t feel confident about sending ballots through the mail, the law allows election authorities to provide secure drop boxes, monitored either by staff or surveillance cameras.

Scheming up a way to vote once by mail and then another time in person? Local election commissions have systems that detect multiple ballots cast by the same person and will void the mail-in ballot. (Also, it’s a crime.)

Myths about elections fraud, no matter how often they are repeated or how red in the face people get while repeating them, aren’t doing anything to promote or protect your participation in our democracy. These tactics serve only to undermine your trust in the election process and make you question the power of your vote.

They’re a giant slap in the face to your local election authorities, who work hard to ensure the integrity of all elections, not just this one.

This column was published in the State Journal-Register.