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Sunday, March 3

Gapers Block

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Maybe you've just moved. Maybe you tell yourself you're too busy. Maybe you couldn't tell me your alderman's name if your life depended on it. Maybe you don't want to give your personal information to some stranger with a clipboard and a folding table standing outside of Walgreen's. Whatever the reason, your excuses are at an end. I have tried to gather all the links and resources you need to register to vote in Illinois so you can go to the polls for the General Primary Election on March 16, 2004.

But don't wait. If you want to vote in the Primary, the deadline to register is February 17.

The voter registration requirements for the state of Illinois simply state that you must be a U.S. citizen, must be at least 18 years old by Election Day, and must have been a resident of your election precinct for at least 30 days. However, you cannot register if you are currently convicted and in jail.

If you want to register in person, you can register at your County Clerk's office, local Board of Elections office, any city/village/township offices, or even at military recruitment offices. Depending on your community, you may also be able to register to vote at some schools, public libraries, labor group offices or corporations. See the links below to find out where you can register in your community.

If you register in person, you must bring two forms of identification with one showing your current residence address.

If you're hearing those excuses popping up again, I'll make it even easier for you: you can also register by mail. You can download an Illinois voter registration form here from the Illinois State Board of Elections page. Fill out the one-page form and mail it in to your local county clerk's office.

Don't know the name or address of your county clerk? Lucky you, the Illinois State Board of Elections website also has this handy list with addresses and contact information for every county in the state. Now all you need to do is find an envelope and a stamp.

You will know you are registered when you receive your voter registration card in the mail within a few weeks of registering, but you do not need to bring your card with you on Election Day.

If you are already registered to vote in Illinois, you do not need to re-register unless you move to a different address or change your name. You can download the same form to make these changes.

Web Resources

Illinois State Board of Elections
Your first stop for voting and election information is this website for the Illinois State Board of Elections. You will find a wealth of information here to get you started. Look up your address to find out what election districts you live in and who your current local officials are.

The Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago is moving to a new website, and this site is clunky and badly designed, but it still includes plenty of useful information including a polling place locator module. Enter your address to find out where you should show up to vote on March 16.

Suburban Cook County
The Cook County Clerk's Office has an award-winning website for election information for Suburban Cook County residents. If you live in Suburban Cook County, "you can access a virtual ballot, locate your polling place and view an online voter guide to learn more about candidates" by simply entering your address. In addition, you can check your voter registration status online if you are not sure whether or not you are registered.

DuPage County
On this page from the DuPage County Election Commission, you may check your registration status, view a sample ballot, download the voter application form, view voter FAQs, get a list of candidates, and see a list of propositions for the General Primary Election.

Kane County
In addition to the general registration information, Kane County residents can view a list of candidates with petitions, download a form for filing objections, read a list of referenda for the General Primary Election, and find their nearest polling place.

Lake County
This website from the County Clerk's office of Lake County includes voter registration information and links to other election-related services.

McHenry County
The McHenry County Clerk's website includes a list of all the deputy registrars in the county broken down by suburb. Find the registrar nearest you to register in person to vote in McHenry County. Deputy registrars may include village and township officials, school officials, or librarians at your local public library.

Will County
Along with a list of voter FAQ's, this site for the Office of the Will County Clerk also includes the ability to find your nearest polling place by looking up your address.

So, no more excuses now. Fill out that form and go find a stamp. And, while you're waiting for your voter registration card to arrive in the mail, review Ramsin Canon's series of profiles on the candidates running for the U.S. Senate and remember, as the McHenry County Clerk reminds us, "It Is Your Right To Vote! Please Do Not Forfeit That Right."

Have a topic you would like to see in "Ask the Librarian"? Send your suggestions to librarian@gapersblock and it may be featured in a future column.

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alison / February 5, 2004 9:01 AM

yay! I was just thinking I needed to do this but had no idea where to get started. Thanks for the timely advice!

Pete / February 5, 2004 10:01 AM

Question: Does one have to be a registered member of the Democratic Party to vote in the Democratic presidential primary? Or is that covered by the general voter registration?

Andrew / February 5, 2004 10:22 AM

Yes, you can't "cross over" in the Primary like you can in the general election. So if you want to vote for a Democratic candidate, you have to be registered as a Dem.

Ramsin / February 5, 2004 10:46 AM

Actually, I don't think you can register with a party in the state of Illinois. It's an open primary we have--you just go to the booth and request a Republican or Democratic ballot, but you won't ever be registered as a Democrat or Republican.

Andrew / February 5, 2004 10:54 AM

Hmm...That's not what I was told at the last primary. But then, it could have been that the poll officials was misinformed.

Alice / February 5, 2004 12:17 PM

I am not an election official so I can't speak authoritatively on this, but looking at the registration form, there is no area in which you are asked to designate a party. However, I would look at the contact list on the State Board of Elections site, and call or email your local County Clerk's office for the *official* answer.

Alice / February 5, 2004 12:25 PM

Okay, this is copied directly from the FAQs on the Cook County Clerk's page:

"Do I have to declare a political party preference?
In Illinois, you do not declare affiliation with a political party when you register. In primary elections, you must choose to vote a specific political party ballot on Election Day."

In other words, Ramsin's answer above was correct. :)

Pete / February 5, 2004 1:19 PM

Thanks, everybody.

Cinnamon / February 6, 2004 10:42 AM

My biggest complaint with Chicago's registration policy, is that when you get your voter registration card in th email it doesn't say where you are supposed to vote. Everytime I've moved, I've had to call my alderman's office and ask. The last time, I got a "Gee. I don't know. No one has asked me that before. Can I call you back?"

Alice / February 7, 2004 9:58 AM

Cinnamon, I completely agree. Every time I'd hear some public service message urging people to vote, I'd just want to scream, "Yes, but WHERE?!?"

Luckily, if you go to the Chicago Elections website above, they have a polling place database -- just enter your address and voila! -- it will tell you where your local polling place is located.

Cinnamon / February 10, 2004 12:22 PM

Awesome! Thanks again, Alice.

Tracy VonKaenel / June 3, 2004 9:23 AM

I re-registered via mail over three months ago(due to address change) and have yet to recieve a voters card in the mail. Should I try to register again or continue to wait? How do I find out if I am indeed registered?


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