Since the 2000 presidential election, Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office has aggressively sought to reform elections and protect voter rights.
New laws and procedures are aimed at simplifying elections, reducing voter confusion and limiting ballot errors. Although some reforms have been implemented in previous elections, many voters will be experiencing them for the first time. Orr has offered some tips and reminders so voters know what to expect before they head out to vote on Election Day.
Verify your registration and know your polling place. The Clerk’s office is making special efforts to emphasize that voters should verify their voter registration and know their precinct and polling place location. Voters can visit the Clerk’s interactive website – www.voterinfonet.com – or call (312) 603-0906. In addition, all suburban Cook County households with registered voters will receive a pre-election mailer that provides the polling place name and address and how-to-vote instructions.
Provisional voting rights. Under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), every voter has the right to cast a provisional ballot if their registration is not found or their eligibility to vote is questioned at the polls. Provisional ballots are segregated on Election Day and only counted later if the Clerk’s office determines each voter is registered to vote.
Bring identification. Under federal law, election authorities must confirm the identity of first-time voters who register to vote using the mail-in registration form. If a voter does not include an Illinois driver’s license number on the form, or a copy of acceptable ID with a name or current address, he or she will most likely have to show ID at the polls before voting for the first time.
New technology. Orr’s office won a legal battle to activate new error-detection technology in 2001 that gives voters a “second chance” to fix ballot errors. Voters now insert their own ballots into a precinct ballot counter, which scans each ballot for unrecorded votes and alerts the voter to any undervotes or overvotes in contested races. The voter then has the option of making corrections or having the ballot accepted “as is” without making any changes. Voters may still skip races. No votes are recorded in races where undervotes or overvotes occur, but the other selections will count.
Check for chads. Before leaving the voting booth, voters should check both sides of their ballot for hanging or dimpled chads. Voters should remove any loose chads before placing the ballot into the ballot counter.
Know your ballot. Voters living in suburban Cook County can visit www.voterinfonet.com and type in their address to download a virtual ballot, which lists all the candidates who will appear on their polling place ballot. The Clerk’s office has invited each candidate to submit a written statement detailing their background and positions on the issues. If a candidate submitted a statement, their name has been highlighted so voters can click on the hyperlink to read the statement.
Vote early. More than 1.38 million suburban Cook County residents are registered to vote, the second-highest number of voters on record. As a result, some areas could experience record turnouts. If possible, the Clerk’s office encourages voters to vote in the late morning and afternoon to avoid lines.
Voters who have moved. Voters who have moved more than 30 days ago and have not re-registered can return to their old precinct to vote a federal-only ballot. A federal-only ballot enables a voter to cast votes for U.S. President, U.S. Senate and Congress. If you have moved within the last 30 days you may return to your old precinct and vote a full ballot.