Brown: Election day voter registration limits gone, but why wait

SHARE Brown: Election day voter registration limits gone, but why wait

Voters cast ballots inside one of Chicago’s many unique polling places - Sam’s Auto Sales in the 17th Ward on South Western Avenue on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. File Photo by Peter Holderness / Sun-Times Media

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In case you missed it, a federal appeals court last week restored Election Day in-precinct voter registration in Illinois’ most populous counties, slamming the door on a Republican effort aimed at holding down the Democratic vote in Cook County.

Having sounded the alarm on this issue previously when U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan called a halt to Election Day registration at the polling place, I feel some responsibility to make sure everyone has the final outcome.

The U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit stayed Der-Yeghiayan’s ruling last week and announced it would wait until after the election to consider arguments in the underlying case.

Lawyers from the conservative Liberty Justice Center, which filed suit on behalf of Downstate Republican officials challenging the state’s Election Day registration law, said Monday they will not appeal the briefing schedule set by the court.

The effective result is that voters will be allowed to register to vote — and cast their ballots — on Nov. 8 in 2,092 precincts in Chicago and 1,599 precincts in suburban Cook, as originally planned.


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The same requirement also extends to Illinois’ next 19 most populous counties, including all of the collar counties. Election Day registration, is allowed, but not required, in the state’s other 82 counties.

The court’s decision to proceed with Election Day registration removes a major headache for local election officials here — and potential cost to taxpayers — that would have resulted from trying to create alternative centrally located registration sites at the last minute.

The Illinois law is one of many measures enacted around the country in recent years to increase voter turnout by removing impediments to voting.

More than 110,000 voters across the state used Election Day registration in the March primary, about half of them here in Cook County. The consensus was that the system worked well.

Having said that, if you know you’re not registered to vote, do yourself and everybody else a favor and don’t wait until Election Day to take care of that. You don’t want to be “that guy” in line slowing down everybody else.

Tuesday is the deadline for traditional voter registration, or you can still register online until Oct. 23 if you have a driver’s license or state ID card.

But if you do wait until Election Day to register, make sure you bring two pieces of identification, including something that shows your current address. That’s a requirement.

After writing about this previously, I know there is a belief in some corners that those who register on Election Day are either procrastinators or cheaters.

Election officials will tell you that many, if not most, of the people who benefit from Election Day registration believe they are properly registered but for some reason are not.

Maybe they moved and forgot to change their registration or assumed, incorrectly, that it followed them to their new address. Maybe they were incorrectly bumped from the voting rolls.

Either way, they deserve to vote.

As far as cheating, I’d never tell you it couldn’t happen, but it’s a very rare form of voter fraud to impersonate a registered voter.

None of those arguments were at stake in the court case, which challenged the Illinois law on the basis that requiring Election Day registration in only the 20 largest counties favored Democratic candidates.

Smaller counties objected to Election Day registration because it would require an added expense in equipment and staffing. Only one of the smaller counties is expected to offer the program voluntarily in November.

To the extent that may create an inequity, the federal court believes that’s a problem that can wait until after the election to resolve. That’s one less excuse not to vote.

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