New law extends grace period voter registration

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Traditional voter registration typically ends 28 days prior to an election. Illinois has broadened the rules by allowing grace period registration to take place outside those boundaries. In 2006 the Illinois legislature enacted a law that extended the period for voter registration, calling it a grace period. This year the time was lengthened again, opening voters to registration for an additional week.

This year the grace period runs from the 27th day prior to election to the seventh day prior to election.  Voters who register during this grace period can also submit a change of address form. Grace period registration is held at the county clerk's office. If the person also wishes to vote in the primary they must vote at the courthouse or by absentee ballot, not at the precinct associated with the resident's address.

In order to register to vote, a person must be 18 years of age by Election Day, a US citizen and a resident of the precinct where they vote at least 30 days prior to Election Day.

When registering to vote, two forms of identification are required. One must show the current address of the applicant. A new state law adds forms of identification that are acceptable, such as a lease or contract for a residence. A photo identification card issued by a university or college, or mail addressed to the voter at the address of the residence is also acceptable proof.

During a primary, registered voters help winnow down candidates for office, if there is a race within the party. This is why voters must declare which ballot they want to vote when they enter the polls. During a primary the three ballot choices, Democrat, Republican or Green. The only races within these party ballots for the Feb. 2, 2010 primary are at the federal, state and judicial levels.

Voters in this election will nominate candidates in Mercer County for clerk, treasurer, sheriff and some county board seats. At the state level there are candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller, state senators and state representatives in the general assembly. There are also judges up for election, a US senator and a number of Mercer County precinct committeemen. The general election is the first Tuesday in November, Nov. 2, 2010.

According to Phyllis Bewley, current Mercer County Clerk, there may be some non partisan candidates or refernda to vote on in the primary. "If a voter does not want to declare a party affiliation, he or she may request a nonpartison ballot only."

In Mercer County these nonpartison ballots can be requested for New Boston aldermen in Wards 1, 2 and 3 and in Mercer and Millersburg precincts for the Mercer Carnegie Library question.

The  "Yes/No" question asks voters whether or not the library district can issue bonds in the amount of $2,800,000 for the purpose of repairing, remodeling, improving and building an addition to the existing library building, constructing site improvements, furnishing necessary equipment and acquiring library materials and electronic data storage and retrieval facilities.

Voters doing absentee voting do not have to specify a reason for wanting the absentee ballot. Registered voters can contact the County Clerk by mail or in person 40 days before an election to request an absentee ballot.

The Illinois State Board of Elections even has a web site people can visit to check on their voter status at www.elections.il.gov.