Voting information for college students

January 15, 2004
Press Release

Cook County Clerk David Orr has made it easy for local college students to register to vote prior to the March 16 presidential primary election.

With a registration application available online at the Clerk’s election website – – students can download and mail the form before the February 17 deadline.

“Sending in a completed online voter registration form is the fastest way to register to vote, especially for students with busy schedules,” Orr said. “It’s just another way to expedite the registration process.”

To register via the online application, log onto and click the “Register” icon at the top of the page. 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.

To qualify to vote, an individual must be: a U.S. citizen; at least 18 years old by Election Day (March 16); and a resident of the same voting precinct at least 30 days prior to the election.

If you register using the online form, election officials must verify your identification before you vote and you must vote in person the first time you vote.

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, you may register to vote there. However, you can only be registered at one address at any given time.

I registered to vote last year but I 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.

What is the deadline to register?
You must register to vote no later than 28 days before each election or by February 17 if you want to vote in the March 16 primary election in Illinois.

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.

Will I need to show ID at the polls?
It depends. Under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), federal law requires first-time voters who register using the online application form or by mail to show proof of identification before they vote. If you do not provide an Illinois drivers license number or Illinois state identification number on the registration application, you can 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.

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. Visit the Federal Election Commission’s primary calendar at to learn the primary date in your home state.

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 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 that lists precinct information and voting districts.

Do I have to declare party affiliation in Illinois?
No. Illinois does not require you to register by political party or declare a political party membership or preference. However, you may select a specific political party ballot when voting in the primary.

How can I find out what’s on my ballot?
If you’re registered to vote in suburban Cook County, visit 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 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.

If you have any questions, call the Clerk’s Elections Department at (312) 603-0906 or e-mail