Chicago voter registration drops

September 25, 2012

Voter registration in Chicago for November’s elections is down by nearly a quarter million people so far, compared to the final tally in 2008, the city’s election authority said Tuesday.

As of Sept. 10, more than 1.27 million people had signed up to vote on Nov. 6, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. That’s down by about 225,000 from 2008, when nearly 1.5 million Chicagoans registered to cast a ballot in the election that sent hometown candidate Barack Obama to the White House.

Young voters, a key demographic that helped Mr. Obama win election in 2008 – is now leading the city’s decline, said board Chairman Langdon Neal. Registration among 25- to 34-year-old people is down by nearly 80,000 compared to 2008’s final tally, and down by nearly 60,000 for 18- to 24-year-old people.

Neal said he isn’t seeing the same excitement as in 2008, when Chicagoans turned out in droves to send the nation’s first African-American president to Washington.

“I don’t think we have seen that same level of enthusiasm yet,” Neal said. “Though we are starting to see more interest, and our registrations have begun to climb. But we still have a large hill to overcome here.”

Election officials are reaching out to high schools and colleges to register new voters, Neal said. He’s also hoping to increase the number of young registrants with a new smartphone and tablet application that helps people get started with the registration process.

The lower registration number so far this year is also due to people who have moved, but not having updated their addresses with the election board, Neal said.

He suggested it could be difficult for registration numbers to climb back up to 2008 levels.

“What happened in 2008 was very, very unusual – almost unprecedented,” Neal said. “So is it impossible? No. … Will it require a massive rush to access our registration facilities? Yes.”

Chicagoans can sign up with the new smartphone and tablet applications through Oct. 1, and they’ll receive a registration form in the mail. Forms are due back by Oct. 9. So-called “grace period” registration runs from Oct. 10  through Nov. 3, when people must register at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners office at 69 W. Washington.