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The Youthful Impact of Early Voting

Chicagoans are taking advantage of Early Voting at the Chicago Board of Elections. Photo Credit: Dominique Jackson
Chicagoans are taking advantage of Early Voting at the Chicago Board of Elections. Photo Credit: Dominique Jackson

Early voting has made its way to Chicago, Chicago Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal announced last Monday at the Museum of Broadcast Communication.

Early voting started on October 20 and will continue through November 2. Neal also announced a pilot program that will offer same day voting registration at five locations throughout Chicago. These five locations can be found on the Chicago Board of Elections website.

Same day registration will allow people to register and vote all at once. This is a new pilot program that Chicago is testing out. Currently ten states plus the District of Columbia offer same day registration.

“It’s not too late … even if you want to wait until the 11th hour,” Neal said.

Artemio Arreola, political director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the organization seeks to promote the rights of immigrants and refugees so they can have equal access to civic, cultural, and political life.

Often times the voting atmosphere is more intimidating than it is inviting, Arreola said. He said, immigrants are still scared to walk up to the machines and that long lists of candidates’ names are often overwhelming, so the initiatives and changes to the voting process are helpful for his community.

However, changes to voting such as more polling locations and having bilingual workers can help Hispanic voters, Arreola added.

“This is an advantage to our community to participate in…it is more accessible for our community,” Arreola said.

According to The Pew Hispanic Research Center, 25.3 million Latinos are eligible to vote in this year’s midterm elections. And the majority of the Hispanic vote comes largely from the youth population.

This year 33 percent of eligible voters are between the ages of 18 and 29, and within this same age group, 18 percent of eligible votes are white and 25 percent are black, according to Pew.

Youth engagement will play a huge role in this election season, according to Neal. He said there are a total of 4,000 high school and college students who are trained to work the polls.

“We lead the nation in youth engagement and participation…we are very proud of that,” Neal said.

But Marissa Liebling, program director for the Just Democracy Coalition, said there can be some draw backs.

The process of voting can be imitating and even scary to first time voters, Liebling said. She added, it can be difficult for young people to decide which candidate to vote for because there are thousands of ads being thrown at them daily. The purpose of early voting allows young people to cast a ballot despite all their other responsibilities, Liebling said.

“Early voting is incredibly important…there is a convenience factor because you can go to any early voting site no matter where you live,” Liebling said.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic and Learning Engagement (CIRCLE) said nationally there was a 50 percent youth turnout rate including ages 18-29. This number is close to the national youth turnout rate – 52 percent – in the 2008 election.

“I think our vote matters because what I want to see in the future will be affected by the politicians I choose today,” said Gabriel Evans, a student at Roosevelt University.

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