Cook County Clerk David Orr is giving local college students the tools they need to register and vote easily.
Voter registration applications are available on the Clerk's election website, www.voterinfonet.com, where students can download and mail their registration forms before the October 5 deadline.
"We want to make it easy for college students to register and vote," Orr said. "Mailing completed online registration and absentee voting forms is a quick and efficient way to participate in the electoral process, despite a hectic school schedule."
Orr hopes to see an increase in voter participation among 18- to 24-year-olds, of whom an estimated 36 percent nationwide voted in the 2000 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
To qualify to vote, an individual must be: a U.S. citizen; at least 18 years old by Election Day (November 2); and a resident of the same voting precinct at least 30 days prior to the election.
Students who want to register locally via the online application should simply log on to www.voterinfonet.com and click the "Register" icon. After printing and completing the application, return it to the Cook County Clerk's office at 69 W. Washington St, Room 500, Chicago, IL 60602.
However, registering by mail may not be appropriate for all students. State law requires first-time voters to cast their ballots in person if they register by mail. First-time voters are encouraged to register in person at their village or township clerk's office or with a deputy registrar if they must vote by mail-in absentee ballot.
Orr reminds students who have moved since the last election to re-register at their current address.
Students attending college in the Chicago area but who are registered at their parents' address outside of Cook County can also vote absentee by mail, as long as they did not register by mail. Those students should contact the county clerk or election authority in their home precinct for absentee ballot materials.
Students already registered in suburban Cook County, but away at college outside the county or otherwise eligible to vote absentee, can get absentee ballot applications at www.voterinfonet.com.
Some frequently asked voting questions that apply to college students:
What if I'm new to Illinois or the precinct where I currently live?
As long as you have lived in the same place for more than 30 days before the election, you may register to vote there. However, you can only be registered at one address at any given time.
I registered to vote on (or near) campus last year but have since moved. Do I need to re-register?
Yes. If you have moved, you must re-register. If you are already registered to vote in suburban Cook County and moved within suburban Cook, you can transfer your registration by filling out the reverse side of your registration card and mailing it back to the election authority.
I'm registered to vote at my parents' address in Cook County. Can I vote at my home precinct on Election Day even though I'm currently living away from home?
Yes. If you are away at college, you may travel home to vote on Election Day, regardless of where your parents live as long as you do not re-register to vote at your precinct at college.
How can I vote at my home precinct, which is out of state?
If you are going to be out of the county where you are currently registered to vote, you may qualify to vote absentee by mail. Check with your local county clerk or election official to learn about voting absentee and application deadlines.
Will I need to show ID at the polls?
It depends. Federal law requires first-time voters who register by mail to show proof of identification before they vote. If you registered by mail, you must list your Illinois drivers license number or Illinois state identification number on the registration application; mail a copy of an ID that shows your name and current address with your application; or submit a copy to the Clerk's office before Election Day. Otherwise, you must show ID at the polls on Election Day. Acceptable forms of identification with your name and address include: a copy of a current and valid photo ID, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document. You cannot use an out-of-state drivers license to satisfy this requirement.
If I'm registered in Cook County, can I vote absentee?
If you register using the online application or by mail, you must vote in person the first time you vote. If you are currently registered and have voted before in your precinct in a past election, you may vote absentee if you cannot make it to your polling place on Election Day. Most common reasons to vote absentee are if you will be out of the county on Election Day or are physically incapacitated. Visit www.voterinfonet.com to learn more about the requirements. You cannot vote absentee merely because you have class that day.
After I submit the registration application, how will I know if I'm registered?
After your name has been added to the voting rolls, you will receive a voter identification card (usually within four weeks) that lists precinct information and voting districts. You can also verify your registration at www.voterinfonet.com.
How can I find out what's on my ballot?
If you're registered to vote in suburban Cook County, visit www.voterinfonet.com to type in your address and download a virtual ballot of candidates who will appear on your polling place ballot on Election Day. The Clerk's office has encouraged the candidates to submit 400-word statements that reveal their background and positions on the issues.
How can I get more election information?
If you live in suburban Cook County, visit www.voterinfonet.com to: locate your polling place; verify your registration; sign up to become an election judge; print out an application to vote absentee and access more election-related information.
To find answers to any of these questions, voters can also call the Clerk's Elections Department at (312) 603-0906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.