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Absentee voting will no longer be at village halls

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

A plan to remove absentee voting from more than 100 village halls and township offices throughout Cook County for the March election riled some county commissioners Tuesday.

"Don't take away the voting rights of people in suburban Cook (County)," shouted northwest suburban commissioner Carl Hansen. "That's what you're doing."

County Clerk David Orr is backing legislation in the statehouse that would eliminate the in-person absentee voting now available at municipal and township offices.

The proposal is part of a switch to "early voting" that's expected to draw more voters and is required by state law.

Mail-in absentee ballots will still be available for anyone who wants them. And the proposal will not affect which polling places will be open on Election Day.

Under current rules for in-person absentee voting, voters can cast ballots before Election Day only in their home municipality or township and only if they have a reason, such as plans to be out of the county on Election Day.

About 6,000 of the county's 1.3 million voters took advantage of in-person absentee voting last primary election, Orr spokesman Scott Burnham said.

Early voting allows any registered voter to come into any county courthouse before Election Day and vote using the county's new touch-screen voting machines. A connection to county computers will ensure each voter can vote only once.

Allowing both systems to operate at the same time would confuse voters and create security problems, Burnham said. People could potentially vote once at a county courthouse and once at their village hall, which would not have the connection to county computers.

"This is our first time offering early voting, and we have to train staff and deploy staff to these sites," Burnham said. "We plan to expand the number of locations available for early voting, but we have to do it in a responsible way."

But Hansen, the board's four other Republicans, and Democrats Joan Murphy and Earlean Collins said they were worried about taking away polling places that many voters, particularly seniors, were used to.

"The courthouses are not convenient, the parking lots are so far back," Murphy said. "Townships are used to dealing with these people."

 



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