With early voting, voters don't have to weather the weather

2012-02-09T21:00:00Z With early voting, voters don't have to weather the weatherBy Greta Johnsen Medill News Service nwitimes.com
February 09, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | It's a relic of the Chicago political machine: the myth of the neighborhood precinct captain shoveling snow outside a voting station, clearing pathways to make sure that voters can embrace their democratic right.

"You always hear Chicago lore about that sort of thing," said Esta Kallen, vice president at the Chicago League of Women Voters.

While winter has been mild so far, with the 2012 Illinois primary on March 20, it's any guess what the weather might be then.

"You can't rely on anything in the Midwest in winter," Kallen said. "We'd like our election day to be a little later because of that."

But voters don't have to wonder what the forecast portends for primary day. They can take advantage of the current warm weather with absentee voting that started Thursday or early voting that starts Feb. 22.

Absentee and early voting also could have an impact on turnout.

When asked if she thought weather affects voter turnout, Kallen said, "Well, I don't know about significantly, but I think it does."

But Jim Allen, of the city of Chicago election office, thinks otherwise.

"The only time it has impact is when it's severe," he said. "It's just something that people know how to deal with in Chicago. We're tough, hardy Midwesterners. Voter interest drives everything."

Allen did say that early voting had to shut down for two days last year during the blizzard that resulted in more than 20 inches of snow. But that's the advantage of early voting — it's a long enough time period that you can vote at your own convenience, rain or shine (or snow).

Here are the details you need to know.

I moved recently and I can't remember if I'm registered for the right precinct. What should I do?

You can check your voter registration online at the Illinois Board of Elections website.

If you need to register, traditional registration closes Feb. 22, but grace period registration is allowed until March 13. Voter registration applications are available in English and Spanish.

What if I'm not in Chicago on March 20?

You have two options, you can vote absentee or vote early.

While absentee voting is ideal for out-of-state students, Americans working abroad, or deployed military personnel, anyone can vote absentee. The first day to file an absentee ballot was Thursday. Absentee ballots have to be received in the mail by March 15, or in person by March 19.

There are early voting stations throughout Chicago, including the city clerk's office. Early voting begins Feb. 22 and ends March 15.

Who are the candidates? Where can I vote?

The Illinois Board of Elections website — www.elections.il.gov/ — has details on candidates, polling stations, and voting districts.

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