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Brown: Judge’s decision gives Republicans a boost on Election Day

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners alone was geared up to handle more than 100,000 same-day registrants at its 2,069 polling places. | AP file photo

Follow @MarkBrownCSTRepublicans got a major boost Tuesday in their efforts to suppress the Democratic vote in Illinois on Nov. 8 when a federal judge took away the right to register voters in the polling place on Election Day.

I doubt it will be the last trick they have up their sleeve.

In essence, U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan ruled that because election officials in rural Illinois counties can’t be troubled with the hassle and expense of offering Election Day polling place registration, voters in Cook County and other larger counties shouldn’t have that option either.

More than 110,000 voters across Illinois took advantage of Election Day registration in the March primary, half of them from Chicago and suburban Cook County. Many more than that are expected for the presidential election, when the turnout is always higher.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners alone was geared up to handle more than 100,000 same-day registrants this year at its 2,069 polling places.

OPINION

Follow @MarkBrownCSTThe problem is that when the Illinois General Assembly legalized Election Day registration in 2014, it required only counties with population exceeding 100,000 population — or those using electronic polling books — to make it available in every polling place.

Counties of less than 100,000 were permitted to offer Election Day registration but have almost universally chosen not to do so at the precinct level. They cite the cost, which is the reason it wasn’t made a requirement for them in the first place.

The Republicans who brought the lawsuit — a GOP congressional candidate and the Crawford County Republican Central Committee — contend the system is unfair because voters in Illinois’ larger counties are more likely as a whole to vote for Democrats.

Crawford County, with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, is located in southeastern Illinois. One of its biggest towns is Oblong, which always requires mention of the famous headline: “Oblong Woman Marries Normal Man.”

RELATED: Judge’s ruling reduces Election Day registration in Illinois

The plaintiffs concede that Election Day registration is very popular and increases voter turnout, which most people would regard as a positive.

Republicans have tried to cast the disparate impact of the Election Day registration law as some form of Democratic skullduggery, but the truth is Republicans never like to make it easier for people to vote because it only makes it more likely their candidates will lose.

I understand the legal theory, and I would prefer for all voters to be on equal footing, which is why those voters should have demanded their officials offer in-precinct registration if they wanted it.

But if that was the real concern, somebody could have challenged the law two years ago instead of waiting to blow up the system just six weeks before the election.

Cook County Clerk David Orr, who oversees elections in suburban Cook, argues the real purpose is to disenfranchise voters, and I agree. He promised to appeal the court ruling, which Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan did late Tuesday on behalf of the State Board of Elections.

Still, there’s not much time to get this clarified before the election.

The simplest solution, of course, is for voters here to get mad and get off their fannies and register immediately. It’s simple enough to do — online, by mail or in person at numerous sites.

But that’s no argument to deny them same-day registration, which has proven to be both popular and effective.

You probably don’t realize it, but under Illinois law, voting for the Nov. 8 election actually commences this Thursday, Sept. 29.

Voters are allowed to vote beginning on that date at the headquarters of their local election authority, which means 69 W. Washington for city and suburban Cook County voters.

If the Oblong woman wants to mark her X in the square box for the round-faced man starting Thursday, more power to her.

But it shouldn’t interfere with the Stickney man who wants to update his registration on Election Day.

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