Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=209830
Story Retrieval Date: 12/20/2014 4:17:39 PM CST

Top Stories
Features

Shruti Sharma/MEDILL     

Three voters explain why grace period registration and voting is important to them.


Grace period registration and voting ends Saturday

by shruti sharma
Oct 31, 2012


For those who have not been able to register for next week’s election, there is still some time left, though not much. The grace period to both register and vote ends Saturday.

“This is a safety net” for citizens qualified to vote in the general election and who might have missed the standard Oct. 9, voter-registration deadline, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners website.

During grace period registration, voters must cast their ballot during the same visit.

City residents must go to the Board of Election Commissioners office at 69 W. Washington St. for grace period registration and same day voting. Suburban voters have some choices.

“Suburban Cook County voters who need to register for the first time, change their name or address can do so from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. downtown or at one of the suburban courthouses,” said Courtney Greve, senior public information officer, Cook County Clerk’s office. The clerk’s downtown office is in the same Washington Street building as the Chicago Board of Elections.

The grace period registration is especially helpful to those who have moved, got married or changed their names just before the elections.

“It is not necessarily always procrastinators,” Greve said. “And every vote really does count. So if we know we have 3,000 people who registered since the regular registration deadline, that’s 3,000 people who otherwise would not have been able to vote.”

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Board of Election Commissioners, said, “It’s a great safety net because a lot of people don’t understand the registration rules. They get to early voting or they apply for absentee ballot and then they discover they are not registered any more or that they never registered at all.”

To register and vote, the election board requires citizens to bring two forms of identification, at least one of which shows the current address. Acceptable forms of identification include, driver’s license, state identification card, passport, a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck stub, or other government document that shows name and address.

Allen said that besides procrastination, another reason for low registrations during the year is the lengthy process that involves cumbersome paperwork, which might inhibit some people.

“Right now this system is probably the biggest stumbling block, especially for the Millennium voters who have come of age since 2000,” Allen said. “Especially for people who do everything online. They have a hard time understanding the process of printing something out, killing a tree, buying a stamp, dropping it in a mail box and using that antiquated architecture.”

Twelve states offer online registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Indiana is the closest state to Illinois that offers online registration.

“We think, there needs to be a way for people to update or register for the first time online,” Allen said.

Allen said that the election board is going to lobby Illinois legislators next year to create online registration.

“The trick is getting that signature. Perhaps if we get partnership with an agency that already captures signatures, maybe we can make this happen.”

Allen said that going online would be more economical.

“It’s a lot more affordable and accessible for voters and for taxpayers. You are talking about pennies per registration as opposed to 80 cents for processing registration the current way,” Allen said.

Suburban grace period registration has gone up since the last presidential election.

“We have broken our grace period record set in 2008 of 4,197! We now have 4,238 Grace Period voters with four days to go,” said Greve in an email.

As of Tuesday, the Board of Election Commissioners of Chicago reported 5,518 grace period registrations. The numbers are expected to match or surpass the 6,200 grace period registrations in 2008.

“This year has been remarkable with some people having made up their mind already. … People are ready this year. They have been ready for months,” Allen said.