With the backing of several senior organizations and the League of Women Voters, Cook County Clerk David Orr wants to make it more convenient for senior voters to cast ballots by easing absentee voting restrictions in Illinois.
Under Orr’s legislative proposal, eligible voters age 65 and over would no longer be required to provide a reason for requesting to vote absentee by mail or in person. Currently, absentee voting is only permitted in specific situations.
Seniors who are not "physically incapacitated" do not qualify to vote absentee, regardless of age, health status or range of mobility under existing Illinois law. According to Orr, many seniors experience intermittent heath-related problems, which limit their mobility and may make it difficult for them to get out to the polls on Election Day, particularly in inclement weather.
"Elderly voters cannot predict how they will feel several weeks in advance of an election," Orr said. "All too often, a senior can have a bad day and may not have the capability to venture out and perform his or her civic duty. For example, a 75-year-old woman who lives alone is not legally entitled to vote by absentee ballot under current Illinois law, even if she is in poor health and has difficulty walking."
Orr’s bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Boland (D-Moline), won approval in the Illinois House by a 76-to-37 vote last month and is now in the Illinois Senate.
Currently, 32 states – including Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Florida, which included the measure in its comprehensive election reform package – have already eased absentee voting restrictions to give seniors the option of voting early.
The legislation has the support of the following organizations: The League of Women Voters of Illinois; AARP; Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans; The Illinois Association of County Clerks; and The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.