By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
The Hyde Park OWL Chapter, the Voice of Women 40+, hosted a program entitled “Voter Rights and Getting Out the Vote,” on Saturday to inform individuals on their voting rights and how their organization, teamed with others, can help with voter registration as the 2018 election cycle approaches.
The discussion, moderated by OWL program organizer Kathy M. Huff, similar to the recent Women’s March theme entitled “March to the Polls,” encouraged voters to register and support democracy by participating in the electoral process.
The informational event, held at the Lower Level Community Room at Treasure Island, 1536 E. 55th St., featured a panel discussion with three guest speakers from different organizations including Julie P. Shelton, a retired attorney and volunteer with League of Women Voters of Chicago; Sophia Watson, a civil rights activist who was involved with Rev. Jessie Jackson’s Operation Breadbasket and is a volunteer with Chicago Votes who is also engaged with registering voters in Cook County Jail; and Stephen Stern, attorney and State Board President, representing Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO).
“One of the things that I think we should be proudest of in the last session is that we passed the automatic voter law, which allows people to be automatically registered once they issue a state ID,” said Stephen Stern, a representative of IVI-IPO, who added this service made it easier for voters to access the polls.
Last year, Illinois’ legislature passed a bill making Illinois the tenth state with an automatic voter registration program. The legislation would automatically register citizens who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, Secretary of State’s office, and several other state agencies unless they requested not to.
Additionally, in Illinois, already-registered voters are not required to present identification at the polls. However, a form of identification would be required for those seeking same-day registration.
Voters that are currently below the age of 18 are allowed to register to vote and will be granted a right to vote during primaries only if they will be 18 by March 20.
Watson added that Chicago Votes is hosting an upcoming deputy registrar training date at the Chicago Board of Elections for Cook County Jail Volunteers on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 234 S. Wabash Ave., 6th floor.
Shelton, who is working with the League of Women Voters Southside chapter to register voters in Cook County Jail said to contact Jen Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org for those interested in participating with her organization’s efforts to help inmates register to vote.
The 2018 Primary Election dates are as follows:
Dec. 20 – March 15: Apply for Vote by Mail ballot, return postmarked by March 20.
Feb 8 – March 19: Early voting at Board of Elections
Feb 20: Last day for regular voter registration
March 4: Last day for online registration: ova.elections.il.gov
Feb. 21 – March 19: Grace period registration
Feb. 21 – March 19: Early voting at selected sites
March 20: Election day, polls will be open from 6am to 7pm
Illinois voters can find information regarding registration, voter’s districts and polling place on ChicagoElections.com. For more information regarding OWL, please contact Kathy Huff at (773) 241-7141 or Kathy@rogerhuff.com .
If you are an individual with a disability, Equip for Equality, an organization responsible for advancing the human and civil rights for people with disabilities in Illinois aids voter protection through their Voting Rights Project, which ensures that people with disabilities are able to vote and are able to do so privately and independently encourages you to reach out to them. For more information contact Cheryl Jansen at her email: email@example.com or (216) 544-0464 ext. 6013.