Voters have several chances to register, cast ballots

Adriana Colindres

If some would-be Illinois voters miss Tuesday's registration deadline, there's no need to panic.

Places to register include local county clerk’s offices, and, if you’re conducting other business, the following sites: driver's license facilities, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services offices and Illinois Department of Employment Security offices.

Anyone unable to meet the Tuesday deadline still can sign up a little later during what's called the "grace period," which for the Nov. 4 general election lasts from Wednesday, Oct. 8, through Oct. 21.

The "grace period" extends the period of time when people may register to vote or update their addresses or other registration information.

Anyone who registers during the grace period must cast a ballot immediately at his or her local county clerk's office or other designated location.

To register in person, two forms of identification are required, and one must show a current address.

Registered voters also don't have to wait until Nov. 4 to cast ballots. Other options are to vote by absentee ballot or during the "early voting" period Oct. 14-30.

Anyone who wants an absentee ballot must apply for one with election authorities, who must receive the applications no later than Oct. 30, said Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections. Those ballots must be returned to election authorities by Nov. 3, the day before the election.

Stacey Kern, director of elections for Sangamon County, said that with early voting, voters don't have to explain why they want to perform their civic duty ahead of time. During the early voting period, the Sangamon County election office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, as well as from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, she said.

Sturm said one benefit of early voting is that voters who are worried about large crowds or long lines on Election Day can instead cast their ballots at a different time.

The Board of Elections said that slightly fewer than 7.4 million Illinoisans were registered to vote as of the end of September.

Kern didn't have voter registration figures for Sangamon County, but she said officials there "always see an influx of registrations, especially for a presidential election."

Registration numbers have been going up in Peoria County, too.

"Since the primary, we've had a good 1,000 people register," said Michael Deluhery, assistant chief deputy county clerk. That makes for a total of more than 47,000 active voters.

One of the issues facing voters in the general election is whether Illinois needs to call a constitutional convention, where elected delegates would recommend revisions to the state constitution. Any changes ultimately would have to win voters' approval.

Still uncertain as of Friday was how that question will be worded on the ballot. A Cook County judge said last Wednesday the phrasing on the "con-con" referendum question is misleading, but officials were still working on what to do next. Also unclear was whether the issue would affect only Cook County ballots or ballots all over the state.

Adriana Colindres can be reached

Planning to vote in the Nov. 4, 2008, general election? Here are some key dates.

Tuesday, Oct. 7: Final day for traditional voter registration.

Oct. 8-21: "Grace period" registration and voting.

Oct. 14-30: Early voting period.

Oct. 30: Last day for election authorities to receive applications for absentee voting ballots.

Nov. 3: Last day to mail absentee ballots back to election authorities.

Nov. 4: Election Day.