Mary Hansen

Mary is a reporter at NPR Illinois and graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS and received her BA in International Studies from American University. Previously Mary worked as a planning consultant and reported for the State Journal-Register where she covered city government.

Mary is a lifelong NPR listener since tuning into her home station WESA in Pittsburgh.

You might have seen social media posts saying Tuesday was the voter registration deadline in Illinois.

But don’t worry: Illinois residents can sign up to vote through Election Day.

Technically, the Tuesday deadline was for “regular registration.” But as Matt Dietrich – a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections – explains, that just started the “grace period” registration.

“All grace period registration means is that you have to vote at the same time you register. And this year that went into effect on October 10,” he said.

Two competitive judicial races for circuit court are on the ballot in Champaign County this year, which doesn’t happen often. Illinois elects its circuit judges to six-year terms, after which they run unopposed to be retained and are rarely unseated.

Election authorities around Illinois expect to be ready when early voting begins this Thursday.

Still, reform groups say rule changes are needed after problems arose during the primary. A ballot challenge in the crowded attorney general race delayed the start of early voting in some counties early this year.

Drone enthusiasts, be aware – the rules for the small, unmanned aircrafts could be changing in Illinois.

A new law bars cities from regulating the use of drones.

The law excludes the city of Chicago, but a spokesman with the Illinois Department of Transportation says it will create consistent rules around the rest of the state.

Jackie Reiser is a co-owner of Measure Illinois – a Springfield-based company that provides drones to oversee power lines and construction sites. She says more unified regulation is a good thing.

In the past, Ann Quackenbush would wake up early on election day to get to her polling place. The elementary school teacher in Champaign says it was often hard to make time to vote during a busy school day.

For the primary last March, she tried something different – mailing in her ballot before election day.

“It is just incredibly convenient,” said Quackenbush, who has already requested a mail-in ballot for the mid-terms in November.

Illinois and Springfield officials gathered in the capital city Sunday to dedicate a new plaza celebrating the state’s 200th anniversary.

The pedestrian walkway spans a block between the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Illinois Executive Mansion.

Entrepreneurs and job-seekers in central Illinois can mark their calendars for December 3 and 4, 2018. Facebook is bringing a two-day workshop to Springfield.

Erika Harold won the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general, while state Sen. Kwame Raoul defeated a crowded race to win the Democratic nod. They'll face off in the general election in November.

Incumbent Attorney General Lisa Madigan set off a scramble last year when she made a surprise announcement she would not seek a fifth term. The race drew ten candidates in all.

With funding from the Republican Party and Governor Bruce Rauner, Harold beat former Burr Ridge mayor Gary Grasso, winning 60 percent of the vote.

Illinois coal mines lost 228 jobs in the last year, according to numbers from the federal agency that tracks mine safety. That’s fewer jobs than were shed in 2016, and production is up by around 11 percent in the state.

The trend is encouraging, said Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association. He attributes the shift in part to President Donald Trump’s roll-back of the Clean Power Plan and other environmental regulations during his first year in office.