For how much we talk about the importance of voting, this state could do so much better.
Despite the work of many organizations to increase participation in the election, just 36.4 percent of registered voters in Chicago turned out to vote and only about 4.2 percent of those voters were between the ages of 18-24. This means that the issues we care about the most as students may not be on the agenda for the newest governor or elected officials.
We know that one of the biggest barriers to young people voting is a lack of knowledge about how and when to register. As a student at Loyola University Chicago, I have experienced this firsthand. I registered in central Illinois before college. Without same-day registration, I would not have been able to vote on Election Day.
Fortunately, Election Day Registration is a simple solution to increasing young voter turnout. Thousands of Illinois voters were able to vote thanks to the EDR pilot this November. Many voters were already registered and simply needed to update their address. Some who took advantage of this option were the students I met who registered at their parent’s home in the suburbs but actually lived at an apartment in the city. By making the Election Day Registration pilot permanent and available at all polling places, more young voters will be able to update their registration and vote on Election Day.
In addition to young voters, EDR benefits underrepresented communities, including geographically mobile low-income voters as well as persons of color. By being offered an opportunity to update their registration and vote, their rights are treated with equal value.
Election Day registration works too. Twelve states have passed EDR laws, and most states already have EDR in every polling place, not just a select few. Illinois needs to catch up. As a state, we currently have the second lowest voter turnout rate in the Midwest. Allowing EDR permanently would remove barriers for those who deserve a voice in our democracy.
We ask the Illinois legislature to make Election Day Registration permanent and available at all polling locations now so that EDR is available for the spring municipal elections and our voices are rightfully heard.