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Article updated: 12/30/2013 2:18 PM

Cook County launching efforts to register 17-year-old voters

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By Daily Herald report

Beginning Wednesday, most Illinois 17-year-olds will be eligible to register and vote in a primary election -- a first in our state's history, Cook County Clerk David Orr said Monday.

The new "suffrage at 17" law will let voters choose in the primary election which candidates will be nominated to represent political parties in the general election.

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"This expansion of voter registration will allow more young people to participate than ever before," Orr said. "Suffrage at 17 will also get teenagers registered to vote before they leave high school, and studies show that establishing voting habits early boosts the likelihood of participation for years to come."

U.S. citizens who were born on or before Nov. 4, 1996 can register and vote in the March 18 primary because they will turn 18 in time for November's general election.

A countywide "Democracy Week" to register 17-year-olds is scheduled for Feb. 3-7. Orr's office is coordinating with more than 80 suburban Cook County high schools to set up voter registration drives. The Chicago Board of Elections is working with the Chicago Public Schools to do the same.

Both election offices are partnering with deputy registrar organizations including (but not limited to): the League of Women Voters, Mikva, ICIRR, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, NAACP, National Action Network and the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago.

"It will take a mighty effort to register students at every high school in suburban Cook County, so we are looking for deputy registrars to join the effort," Orr said.

To participate, please contact Mark Mesle at mark.mesle@cookcountyil.gov or (312) 603-0988.

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