Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=208650
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John Kanaly/MEDILL

Jesse Self, a volunteer at ICIRR, sets stacks of voter registration forms on the Cook County Clerk's desk.


Thousands of Chicago immigrants get help registering to vote

by John Kanaly
Oct 03, 2012


Immigrant voters in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs will get a chance to cast their ballots in November after the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights delivered tens of thousands of their voter registration forms to the Cook County Clerk’s Office.

“On election day all voters are equal whether their family came to this country 400 years ago or a few years ago,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr at a news conference Wednesday when many of the forms were submitted. Orr said that his office appreciates ICIRR’s hard work.

The ICIRR’s program, called the New Democracy Project, is responsible for helping 26,007 naturalized citizens complete the registration forms and delivering them to the county clerk’s office. They have been gathering the forms since June. Immigrants registered through the program are Latino, Asian, Arab, Polish, and others.

Abdelnasser Rashid, who runs the program, said that two of the biggest problems faced by immigrants registering to vote are language and disillusionment with the electoral process. He said they have successfully overcome these barriers by providing forms in many different languages and by educating the immigrants they meet about the election process.

He said many of the immigrants they help will be voting for the first time, since the countries they come from don’t hold elections or discourage voting.

The ICIRR will continue its registration efforts, then will launch a non-partisan campaign aimed at getting these new voters to the polls.

Newly registered voters frequently have some of the largest voter turnouts come election time, Orr said. With more than 26,000 new voters likely to show up on or before Nov. 6, the work done by the ICIRR may have an impact on some of the election races.

The New Democracy Project is a non-partisan campaign, but does want voters and candidates to make immigration reform one of their top priorities.