By Jeremy Ross

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s days from the presidential election and we are getting our first look into a room in Chicago where judges are busy sorting your mail-in ballots.

Thursday is the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot. If you miss that, there are still plenty of ways to vote in person.

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CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross has more from the Loop with what workers are doing. It’s where the automated and hands on mail-in voting process begins. Envelopes with ballots inside are sent though a machine taking an image of the voters name and signature scrawled on the outside.

That scanned image is then compared to the voters previous signature on the application for that ballot. Election judges then open up the envelopes and initial the ballots. They are put in to blue cases by ward and sealed every night – to avoid tampering.

Eventually an image is taken of the front and backs of the ballots. Errors or ambiguous marks are identified. Those are reviewed by a team of judges determining the intent of the voter and the vote is tabulated.

Those not needing reviews are recorded. All votes officially counted on Election Day after the polls close.

“We have over 350,000 mail-in ballots that have been returned. We are breaking records too with early voting. We’ve had 270,000 Chicagoans use our early voting sites,” said Marisel Hernandez of the Chicago Board of Elections.

Would there be a number that, if we hit it, would be historic?

“In 1983, for Mayor Harold Washington’s election. That yielded an 82-83% turnout,” Hernandez said.

The United Center is playing a role this year, as an expanded voting site offering same-day voter registration, in-person voting and mail ballot drop-off — all in the shadow of the statue of Air Jordan.

If you have not received an email confirming your mail-in vote, you can go to an early voting site to check your status, and if necessary cast a ballot there. All mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. But Hernandez said at this point…

“Take it to one of our early drop boxes. Click here at for more information on where to drop off the mail-in ballots.

If a voter has a mail-in ballot, and decided to vote in person, you can still go to any early voting site with it and vote. Click here for a list o early voting sites.

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