The Law Q&A | What does it take to vote in Illinois?

The Law Q&A | What does it take to vote in Illinois?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld an Ohio law which allowed voters to be "purged" from the rolls by their failure to report in.

The law in question said that if you didn't vote in the previous two general elections, the state administrators who oversee the voter rolls were authorized to send a questionnaire to the enrolled voter asking that they respond by a certain deadline to verify their registered information. If the voter didn't timely respond in writing, they were automatically stricken from registration. The voter would have to re-register.

What does it take to be allowed to vote in Illinois?

Real simple: You must be a U.S. citizen; be 18 (but you can vote as a 17-year-old in a primary if you will be 18 by the date of the following general election); and be a resident of the county where you will be voting in for at least 30 days before the date of the election in question.

Oh, and you can't be registered to vote in another state. Another "oh": You can't be incarcerated for a convicted crime — but once released, you may thereafter vote.

You must register to vote at least 27 days before the election. The registration will occur in the county clerk's office of the county where you will be voting; or a driver's license facility when you apply for a new license; or by mail. Mail registration requires filling out an application and providing identification.

Illinois' purge law is not similar to Ohio's. Aside from voluntarily asking that you be removed from the rolls, there are only two other occasions that remove you from voting registration.

One is if you are deceased. Sorry, no exceptions (the 1960 presidential election notwithstanding). The other is if you get incarcerated as a result of a conviction. You are then removed from voting registration.

Only a handful of other states have purge laws similar to Ohio's. The concern expressed by the law's critics is that other states are now green-lighted by SCOTUS to use Ohio's purge method. States can, from a federal constitutional standpoint, now remove from voter registration those who had missed voting in an election and, for whatever reason — your fault, my fault, nobody's fault — don't respond to mailed notices.

The criticism offered by progressives is that this will be another arrow in the conservative quill of voter suppression.

The right to vote is touted as one of the principal pillars in the pantheon of democracy. It would seem, the critics of Ohio's law suggest, that that right has been weakened by treating it as one might treat a mere contract waiver.

The amount of blood spilled on the bridges at Sharpsburg, Remagen, Chosin and Selma might suggest that it is worthy of greater protection and tender loving care.

Happy Fourth of July.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.

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