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What you need to know about registering to vote in Chicago

Written by
Clayton Guse

The Illinois Primary is coming in hot. The election will take place on March 15, and whether you're planning on voting for Bernie or Hillary, Trump or Cruz, or are still undecided, the window for voter registration in the state is closing fast. If you're not currently registered to vote, you should probably fix that. In the 2014 midterm election, voter turnout in Illinois was abysmal, which contributed to the election of Republican governor Bruce Rauner and the state budget crisis that followed. Furthermore, nationwide voter turnout in that election hit its lowest mark since 72 years ago, when the country was in the middle of World War II.

If you want to participate in the American experiment this time around (and, honestly, you should), here's what you need to know about registering to vote in Chicago for the Illinois Primary.

The deadline to register is February 16, but you can still vote if you miss it

In order to show up to the polls and cast a ballot in an Illinois election, you need to register at least 27 days beforehand. But if you don't make that deadline, you still have some options. The state offers a grace period for registration that runs until the third day before the election (March 12). If you take that route, you won't be able to vote on March 15 at a polling place, but rather in-person at the office of an election authority (one of six Cook County Clerk's offices) or by mail. If you're not sure whether or not you're currently registered, you can check by using this handy online tool from the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

Where can you register before the initial deadline?

The easiest way to register to vote is through the Illinois Board of Elections website, but if you want to keep it analog, you can register in-person at one of the Cook County Clerk offices, an Illinois Secretary of State's drivers license facility, through a trained volunteer deputy registrar or print out the proper forms and send them in by mail.

You don't necessarily need to be 18 to vote

If you're a U.S. citizen, have lived in your precinct at least 30 days prior to election day, are not in jail and will turn 18 on or before the date of the general election (November 8), you can cast a ballot. So even if you're not old enough to buy a lottery ticket, you can still participate in democracy (what a country).

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