ROCKFORD (WREX) — One of the biggest debates this election season is not about the candidates on the ticket, but rather the way people will vote in 2020.

“I think it’s just another way of riggin’ things,’ said Chris Whitehead of Winnebago when asked why he will not vote by mail.

More than 17,000 people in Rockford plan to vote by mail, a record in the city. But many others worry their vote won’t count unless they cast it in person. That’s why 13 Investigates put mail-in voting to the test.

We created 200 mock ballots that were roughly the same size and weight as the ballot you would mail-in ahead of Election Day.

We then traveled across Rockford, dropping off the ballots at 20 random USPS post boxes. We addressed our ballots to a P.O. Box to represent the Rockford Board of Elections. And because not everyone will mail their ballots on the same day, we split them up over three different days.

On Thursday, September 10, we sent out 100 ballots. Within five days, all 100 of those ballots arrived at our P.O. Box.

13 Investigates experiment on mail-in voting finds all mock ballots made it to destination

The next 100 were sent out the following Tuesday and Wednesday. Again, all of them made it back to our P.O. Box.

“If you put your ballot in the mail I think it’s gonna get here provided that you give it enough time to get here,” said Stacey Bixby, Executive Director with the Rockford Board of Elections.

Bixby said you should give your ballot at least seven days to arrive, which means you should send it by Tuesday, October 27. In Illinois, however, as long as your mail-in ballot is postmarked by Election Day, it will be counted up until November 17.

Once it gets to its destination, Bixby says the ballot is counted immediately.

“We won’t see results. we won’t see who’s voted for who and those results won’t be uploaded until Election Night,” said Bixby.

For the ballots that arrive after Election Day, but are still postmarked by November 3, the election is not certified until two weeks have passed, so those votes will get counted.

Bixby said no matter how you vote, whether by mail or in person, your vote is safe. But for those who still have reservations about mail-in voting, you have some options to ensure your vote is counted.

First, the Rockford Board of Elections and the Winnebago County Administration Building have drop-off boxes for mail-in ballots. You can put your ballot in the box, without a stamp, and it goes directly to election officials.

You can also track your ballot through the Rockford Board of Elections website. If for some reason you don’t see it, you can call the elections board and figure out the next step.

Voters have until October 29 to request a mail-in ballot. Those who still want to vote in person can do so starting Sept. 24 for early voting or on Election Day.