Orr’s Voter Registration Renaissance Taking Shape

October 1, 2015
Press Release

New law yields 250,000 voter registration updates with U.S. Postal Service address change data

Nearly 250,000 Illinoisans’ voter registrations will be updated seamlessly following Cook County Clerk David Orr’s new initiative that uses U.S. Post Office national change of address data to update registrations when voters move.

“This is a monumental change in voter registration management,” Orr said. “It really is one of the most powerful reforms that we have made in retaining voters and cleaning the voter rolls.”

Orr introduced the National Change of Address (NCOA) voter registration program and lobbied for it to be included in a 2014 election reform bill, SB 172, which also called for Election Day Registration and participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). Sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan, President John Cullerton, Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and Sen. Don Harmon, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn in January. It is part of Orr’s “All-In” strategy to facilitate voter registration on multiple fronts, ensuring that no voter misses an opportunity to be registered.

A quarter of a million voters throughout the state will be automatically re-registered this summer by matching the state’s voter rolls against the NCOA registry. In suburban Cook County alone, more than 47,000 voter records have been updated, added or cancelled:

  • 22,268 suburban Cook County voters moved within suburban Cook County and have had their registrations updated to their new address;
  • 12,819 new suburban Cook County voters were registered because they moved to this jurisdiction from Chicago or another county; and
  • About 12,000 voters who moved to a different county or state will have their registration cancelled.

“This is moving us closer to automatic voter registration,” Orr said. “We are harnessing technology to make our voter rolls cleaner, while making sure that voter registrations are portable and stay current.”

In comparison, online voter registration has registered 69,000 people statewide since it launched in June, 2014. Online registration is expected to play its biggest role in the weeks leading up to registration deadlines for next year’s presidential primary and general elections.

"Making sure people have plenty of opportunity to participate in elections is the bedrock of robust democracy,” Rep. Currie said. “We live in an Internet age; it's time for our voter registration procedures to reflect reality."

"I am thrilled at the progress in making voting registration easier and more efficient, and ultimately, of the increased voter participation and citizen engagement these changes will yield for our democracy," Sen. Harmon said.

Before, the Clerk’s office would send a form to voters whom the office thought had moved, which the voter had to return if they wanted to re-register. That method involved a great deal of data input and was not the most efficient way of keeping voters registered. Now, the only letter a voter will receive informs them that their registration has been updated to reflect their new address. They are also notified of their precinct and polling place.

“In the past, if you moved down the street you needed to re-register at your new address,” Orr explained. “Many voters wrongly assumed their registration moved with them. Using post office data as a new kind of digital canvass takes the burden off the voter and puts it on election administrators where it belongs.”

While many jurisdictions – including Chicago and suburban Cook County – had used NCOA data for moves within their jurisdiction, this is the first time data from all 102 Illinois counties was shared by the Illinois State Board of Elections with each election authority. 

“This is a big step in capturing complete and correct voter data,” Orr said, “but it’s no excuse to sit by complacently. Suburban Cook County voters can easily make sure their voter information is current through the Your Voter Information tool at cookcountyclerk.com.”

Orr said working with NCOA information is part of a larger, constant effort to correct and improve voter rolls. Over the past 18 months, the Clerk’s office has expanded its digital canvass to add missing information to voter records without birthdates, driver’s license, or Social Security numbers.

The Clerk’s office had more than 100,000 such records, and using data-matching, has filled in the missing information for more than 80,000. This is valuable because such factors are needed to apply online for a mail ballot or update your registration online.  Also, complete records allow the Clerk’s office to better match registrations with death records.

“This only underscores how valuable a tool NCOA is in fraud prevention,” Orr said.

The Clerk’s office performed an analysis of the voter registrations updated using NCOA data and found:

  • Most suburban Cook County residents who moved just moved within their same town or to a neighboring town. 
  • The suburb with the most voter registration updates was Evanston – 923 people. Of these, 720 moved within Evanston.
  • In Oak Park, 467 of the 671 voters who moved were already living in the town.
  • 58 moved from Berwyn to Cicero, while 94 moved from Cicero to Berwyn.
  • 43 moved from Skokie to Evanston, while 61 moved from Evanston to Skokie.
  • While 206 Orland Park voters just moved within the south suburb, another 125 voters moved into Orland Park from the neighboring towns of Tinley Park (48), Oak Forest (20), Palos Park (17), Oak Lawn (16), Orland Hills (13), and Palos Heights (11).
  • Voters moved into suburban Cook County from 79 other Illinois election jurisdictions. 
  • Of the voters who moved into suburban Cook from elsewhere in Illinois, the bulk came from either Chicago (6,458) or DuPage County (2,901). Another 906 came from Will County; 757 from Kane County, and 740 from Lake County.
  • 74 suburban Cook municipalities had 100 or more voters registered using new NCOA protocol.
  • 7 suburban Cook municipalities had 500 or more voters registered using new NCOA protocol. They were: Evanston (923), Arlington Heights (838), Schaumburg (836), Palatine (831), Des Plaines (705), Oak Park (671), and Berwyn (552).

The NCOA update analysis will be run periodically in conjunction with the Illinois State Board of Elections.