(The Center Square) – Enhanced mail-in voting was approved by state lawmakers as a way to increase options for people to vote without being exposed to COVID-19, and authorities promise it’s secure.

If you voted in a recent election in Illinois, expect to get a vote-by-mail application if you haven’t already. August 1st is the deadline local election officials have to be sent out mail-in ballot applications.

Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the next step if the voter wants a mail-in ballot is to return that application. Then, in late September the ballots will be sent out.

“Sept. 24 is the start of early voting in Illinois,” Dietrich said. “We always start 40 days ahead of the election and that’s when local election authorities can begin mailing the actual ballots out to people who have applied for them,” Dietrich said.

If you still haven’t received a mail-in ballot application, Dietrich said you can request one from the election authority.

While some, including President Donald Trump, have raised concerns about increased fraud with mail-in balloting, Dietrich said vote-by-mail in Illinois is as secure as voting in person.

“You are always going to have a case here, or an individual case there,” Dietrich said of concerns over voter fraud. “We’ve never had anything that’s come close to affecting any election.”

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray started mailing more than 90,000 mail-in ballot applications to voters Friday.

Gray said while an online ballot tracking system like Sangamon County has deployed is not required, many counties are implementing a tracking program to ensure proper chain of custody for mailed-in ballots.

“From you casting that ballot and returning it and knowing that we’ve received it, validated it and that it’s been tabulated and ready for release for results on election day,” Gray said. “Every election authority is providing for resources like that for providing confidence in the system.”

Illinois’ elections are decentralized with 108 different elections authorities facilitating the vote.

Gray said there’s still in-person voting people can have confidence in.

“There will be an Election Day. There will be early voting. We will provide for all the necessary safety, security, health provisions,” Gray said.

Gray said for anyone who has questions about any aspect of the voting process should contact their local election officials.

The General Election is Nov. 3.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.