Fewer excuses not to vote

The March 18 primary is 8 weeks away. Past experience indicates many registered voters won’t vote. However, their list of excuses has shortened.

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

The Illinois primary will take place 8 weeks from today. Voters will trek to the polls to have their say on which party candidates should advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Primaries were considered an advancement a century ago. They took candidate selection out of the hands of party bigwigs in smoke-filled rooms and put it into the hands of the people.

That was the theory, at least.

In practice, many primary races are uncontested, so voters may not have much choice in the matter.

And the politicians who control the laws that govern primaries don’t always seem to have the voters’ best interests at heart.

Two years ago, primary turnout was 17.1 percent in Whiteside County and 25.6 percent in Lee County.

Four years ago, Whiteside’s turnout was 14.3 percent, and Lee’s was 18.1 percent.

But it is easier to vote these days, and the list of excuses not to vote is shorter.

Don’t know whether you’re registered to vote? Simply call your county clerk’s elections department and ask. Also, you may visit www.elections.il.gov on the Web, click “Registration and Polling Place Information,” and type in your name and ZIP code to see whether you are registered.

Not sure how to register? Again, contact the county clerk, or visit the clerk’s website for information. The deadline to register is Feb. 18.

Won’t be home on March 18? No-excuse absentee voting and early voting options exist.

Serving in the military? Military absentee ballots are available from your county clerk.

Not registered but still want to vote? You can register the same day at the county clerk’s office and vote, between the 27th and 3rd days before the election, under grace voting provisions.

Think you’re too young to vote? People who will be 17 on March 18, but who will turn 18 by the Nov. 4 general election, will be allowed to vote for the first time this year.

Don’t know where to vote? Your county clerk has a list of polling places on the county website. It will also be published in newspapers as the election nears.

Don’t know your precinct? It’s printed on your voter registration card.

Don’t know the candidates? Their names will be printed on sample ballots, so voters can educate themselves.

Don’t want to reveal your party preference? Sorry, we can’t help you there. Proposals to eliminate the public statement of party preference for primaries have gone nowhere in the Legislature. Maybe you should ask legislative candidates whether they favor reform, and aggressively support those who do.

That would eliminate the last excuse for not voting – unless you simply don’t care.

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