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Voting 101: a first-timer’s guide to democracy

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Believe it or not, Nov. 6 is right around the corner, and for many DePaul students this will be their first time voting. To some, this may seem overwhelming, with deadlines and registration, but there are many tips to speed up the process. Here is a how-to guide to voting in the Windy City.

Oct. 9 is the last day to update your registration or to register to vote in Chicago for the first time. Thanks to the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago, this can be easily completed online via their website, chicagoelections.com. After finishing the registration form, print it and mail it to the Chicago Board of Elections located at 69 W. Washington St. #600, Chicago IL 60602. You will then be sent a Voter ID card.

For students that are registered to vote in other states, you can complete the absentee ballot for that state or just register in Illinois. If you are registered in both, that is fine. Just do not vote in both places.
Early voting is the most efficient way to expedite the voting process. This can be done at any site, starting Oct. 22 until Nov. 3, or through sending in an absentee ballot until Nov. 1.

For DePaul students in Lincoln Park, the nearest early voting location is at the Lincoln Park Library at 1150 W. Fullerton Ave. (Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Government-issued photo identification is all you need.

Just like registration, in order to cast an absentee vote, an absentee ballot application must be completed and mailed to the Chicago Board of Elections. For any applications that are not received before Nov. 1, the voter must vote absentee in person at the Chicago Board of Elections or at your designated precinct on Election Day.

When the application is received, the Election Board will send you the absentee ballot. The ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 5 and received by the Election Board by Nov. 20 in order to be counted.

Lastly, if you are a professional procrastinator, the last option is voting on Election Day Nov. 6. from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Every voter must vote at their assigned voting location in the precinct that they live in.

Between the primaries and the general election in 2008, for the first time the voter registration in Chicago had a majority of voters that were 44 years and younger at 53 percent. However, for the upcoming election Nov. 6, this turnout is not so likely.

“In 2008, it was cool to vote,” said Election Board spokesman Jim Allen. “People your age (18-24) made it their business to talk about the elections all the time. But, in 2010, young voters lost interest.”

This lost interest could be due to the fact that the presidential race is not being viewed as competitive as the race in 2008. The turnout for registered Chicago voters in the Illinois primary, back in March, was a measly 24 percent. Allen believes that the only way for young voters to see the change is to be a part of it.

“Why do we have Medicare? Because seniors vote,” said Allen. “Your most reliable voter is the woman who is 66 years old. She is going to go to the polls every single time – the young generation, not so much.”

Chicago Tribune reporter Ray Long wrote a week ago that “there are 138,000 fewer youth voters (18-34) registered to vote than there were in 2008.”

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Voting 101: a first-timer’s guide to democracy