Election officials say true test for same-day registration is in November
The competitive presidential contests on both the Republican and Democratic tickets drove record turnout in Tuesday's primary, suburban election officials say.
But Cook County Clerk David Orr said that the tens of thousands of residents registering to vote on Election Day was even more surprising than record turnout.
"That was shocking, in a good way," he said
In suburban Cook County, 682,022 voters cast ballots, almost 100,000 more than in the last contested presidential primary on both sides in 2008. Around 23,000 of them registered and voted on Election Day.
In DuPage County, 267,754 people turned out to vote, 25,580 more than in the 2008 primary. Of that number, around 3,700 participated in grace-period registration on Election Day. Kane and Lake county officials say they also saw record turnout, with nearly 7,500 same-day registrants between them.
Tuesday's primary was the first election in which grace-period voting was available at almost all polling places in the state.
Grace-period voting is targeted not only at those who are first-time registrants, but also for those who have recently moved and need to transfer their registration. And Orr said that is crucial in our mobile society.
"Our studies show us that these are not people who don't care," he said. "These are people who move a lot. They really don't realize. They assume their registration moves with them."
Offering the service isn't always easy, though.
Bob Saar, executive director of the DuPage County Election Commission, said it's encouraging the new processes worked well in the primary. But November will bring the need for more trained judges to handle the higher number of voters that participate in general elections.
"I think we should feel good about what happened in this election, but get ready for the presidential, which will have a very high turnout," he said.
In the waning days of his administration, former Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law making same-day registration possible though temporary. The law, which also eased restrictions on early voting, was later made permanent.
State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, introduced legislation earlier this year that would automatically register Illinois residents to vote when they apply or reapply for a driver's license. Now, a would-be voter has to choose to register.