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Clock is ticking, get voting affairs in order

THE ISSUE: Primary elections only six weeks away

OUR VIEW: Now is a perfect time to register to vote or check records for accuracy

Today is Tuesday, Feb. 6. In exactly two weeks, it will be Tuesday, Feb. 20, which is one month before the Tuesday, March 20, primary elections in Illinois.

We share these dates to remind everyone the conventional voter registration period ends on Feb. 20, and urge anyone who would like to be involved in this part of the political process to take time now to register, or for registered voters to make sure their personal records are accurate. This is the easiest and best way to make sure there are no problems at the polling place.

To check registration status, visit ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx, which needs a first and last name, birth date and current ZIP code to start the process, and also provides a polling place address and jurisdiction information.

As a reminder, registration is available to any American citizen, who will be 18 or older by the next election. Voters must live in their precincts at least 30 days before the election. Everything is timed to the election itself, so a 17-year-old with a birthday between now and March 20 can still get their paperwork processed. Be prepared to provide two forms of identification that will verify both name and current address.

The County Clerk’s Office in the Etna Road governmental complex in Ottawa is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. For those who will be in that part of the county anyway, it might be the easiest option. But many city clerks and township offices can process registration as well. It’s best to call in advance to determine the right time. It’s also possible to register by mail — call the county clerk at 815-434-8202 for information — as well as online, ova.elections.il.gov.

As noted here a few other times, Illinois last summer legalized automatic voter registration, joining about a dozen other states. The most likely way a resident will encounter this change is when they visit a Secretary of State’s Office facility to get or renew a driver's license. (Anyone can opt out, too, but as always we encourage active participation in the political process.)

There are other options, such as voting by mail or casting an early ballot at the clerk’s office. The last day to accept an application for a mailed ballot is Thursday, March 15, and early voting is open from Thursday, Feb. 21, through Monday, March 19.

Once the formal voter registration window closes Feb. 20, for the next month the county will process grace period registration and voting, up to and including on election day (check your precinct for availability) allowing people to participate on a provisional basis.

Turnout will be low for this primary for several reasons. Although we are electing a governor and a Congressional representative as well as several other state and county officials, any year that does not feature a presidential election fails to stack up to those dominating contests. Further, primaries tend to be for political partisans who are deeply invested in which names advance to the main ballot, while a lot of unaffiliated folks sit out and observe. For this cycle four years ago, 11,090 of about 71,000 registered La Salle County voters cast ballots, about 15.6 percent. Of those, 72 percent were in the Republican primary.

Still, the primary is building to an important midterm election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and there’s never a bad time to get involved. Anyone who plans to vote in November might as well get everything in order now just to make sure there’s nothing unexpected at the polling place. In addition to personal peace of mind, it can be considered an act of courtesy to fellow voters who are hoping to get in and out as efficiently as possible.

Voting is a privilege. Our elected officials make important decisions that directly affect everyone as it relates to collecting tax dollars, as well as how those dollars are spent. We urge all our readers to participate, and also extend gratitude to the county officials who work so hard to keep the process as simple as possible.

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