Election Day voter registration easier in urban areas than in rural locations

By Dawn Geske | Oct 26, 2016

CHICAGO – With an order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to not expedite a case looking to block Election Day voter registration come November, voters will be able to register to vote on Nov. 8 right at the polling precinct in some counties of Illinois - a move which could make it easier for those living in more populated areas to vote than other eligible voters living in more rural areas.

The appellate court order came at the urging of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Cook County Clerk David Orr who wished to place on hold until after the November election a lawsuit challenging Illinois' so-called same day voter registration program. As the order stands, people will be able to register to vote at the polling precinct in select more populous counties of Illinois on Election Day. Those living in counties without the electronic means to deliver same-day voter registration would need to travel to their county clerk's office to register to vote on Election Day.

“There are a lot of people not registered to vote and there are a lot of people that say we should make voting easier for people,” Nick Kachiroubas, associate teaching professor at DePaul University's School of Public Service, told the Cook County Record. “What the state did when it created this voter program is it allowed it in certain areas and not all areas in the state, which disenfranchises some voters. If you don’t happen to live in one of those areas that are allowed the precinct voting you would have to go all the way to your county building or wherever. This particularly affects downstate and rural counties to do this.”

When Illinois enacted the Election Day voter registration program, it targeted areas of the state that were more populated and could absorb the cost of the program.

“The problem is it was too expensive and the state didn’t have the money to get the counties to be able to implement this in every location,” said Kachiroubas. “They only did this in urban areas that had the budget and funding to be able to roll it out.”

Because the Election Day voter registration is readily available in urban areas it has the potential to cater to Democratic voters and could have the potential to impact the Illinois vote in November, the legal challenge said, as these urban voters have easier access than rural voters – who are typically Republican – to register to vote the same day as the election.

“The plaintiffs' argument is saying that’s not fair because that’s going to unduly influence the Democratic vote, because urban areas tend to be more Democratic in their vote turnout,” said Kachiroubas.

According to Kachiroubas, this entire suit against the state could have been avoided if Illinois had rolled the Election Day voter registration out to all counties.

“Had the state required it statewide it wouldn’t have been an issue,” he said. “If you’re going to allow same-day voting you’ve got to allow it equally and not just roll it out in one spot and not the other spot. For people that want same-day voter high-level participation in elections, it certainly is a blow to that particular movement."

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