The Latest On Voting In Illinois For Election '16

Oct 1, 2016

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A federal judge is sticking by his decision, determining Thursday that a state law that would have made last-minute voting easier for residents of Illinois' biggest counties is unconstitutional.

With online voter registration, a prolonged early voting period, and registration that runs through election day, Illinois has recently made it easier to vote.

But a federal judge says one of the latest efforts violates the Equal Protection Clause.

The law says voters can register or change their address on election day at all polling places, but there's a big exception: Counties with populations of less than 100,000 only have to offer that at one central location.

The judge rejected a request by the state's Democratic Attorney General -- Lisa Madigan. He maintains the law restricts rural voters' rights.

So where does that leave things for voters?

"People can still do same-day voter registration, and register on election day. But they just can't' do it on the precinct. What they'd have to do is contact their election authority and see what locations are available," says Jim Tenuto, with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

He says that's usually the county clerk's office.

The court case challenging the law was filed by a conservative group; Republicans say the law was designed to help Democrats, who tend to have more supporters in cities.

Although election day is more than a month away, Illinois voters can begin casting their ballot as of Sept. 29.

Tenuto advises contacting your local election authority first to find out where that's an option, because they may not be ready at all sites (including in suburban Cook County) until mid-October.

"It's just a matter of not having the ballots prepared because of challenges that were pending and outcomes, people were waiting," Tenuto says.

Tenuto says early voters have the advantage of bypassing potentially long election-day lines. But once a ballot is cast, there are no take-backs.

Early voting runs up until Nov. 7, the day before the actual election. You must be pre-registered in order to vote early.