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Overcoming election apathy: Withholding diplomas, taxing non-voters?

How do you convince - or even force - more people to vote? More than a hundred participants tried to get at that question during a meeting Thursday organized by Chicago's election board.

Non-responsive and corrupt politicians, confusing rules and negative advertising - they're all reasons Chicagoans gave for voter apathy. Greg Sedlacek from the Jefferson Park neighborhood offers this solution.

"How do you get people to vote? Charge the people that don't vote higher taxes," Sedlacek said. "That'll get them off their duff."

That idea didn't make it past the brainstorming stage at the gathering of folks from non-profits and neighborhood groups. But a similarly stern proposal did get considered: Want your high school diploma? Register to vote before graduation.

Other plans involved vote-by-mail, vote-by-computer and vote-by cell phone. But South Loop resident Sharon Stillwell wants to make sure actual polling places remain open.

"I think that community thing of going out on election day to vote draws a lot of people out," Stillwell said.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said it'll consider proposals raised at the meeting, though many of them can't happen without approval from the Illinois General Assembly.

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