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Columbia College Chicago
2012 Election Guide

2012 Election Guide


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Columbia College Chicago's One Tribe Scholars present
One Tribe, One Vote
2012 Election Guide

Welcome to the One Tribe, One Vote guide to the November 6, 2012 General Election. Here we'll share the basic info you need to check your voter registration status, find your polling place, and know your voter rights in Chicago and Cook County.

For info on other states, territories, and Illinois jurisdictions, please see the links at the bottom.

We hope this is a useful resource for you. We welcome your feedback and questions.

Now get out and VOTE!


Am I eligible to vote?

You are eligible to vote if you are

  • a citizen of the United States,
  • at least 18 years of age as of November 6, 2012,
  • a resident of your current precinct 30 days before the election,
  • not in prison/jail serving time for a conviction, and
  • not claiming the right to vote elsewhere.


Can I still register to vote? 

Yes. The regular voter registration deadline is Tuesday, October 9, 2012. You can go to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners at 69 W. Washington St., 6th floor, or ask our advisor, Ramona Gupta, for help. She can be reached at rgupta@colum.edu, 312.369.8664, or 618 S. Michigan, 4th floor.

If you miss the October 9 deadline, you can still take advantage of Grace Period Registration and Voting. From Wednesday, October 10 through Saturday, November 3, you may register to vote, update your address, and/or file a name change at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners at 69 W. Washington, 6th floor, 9am to 5pm.

Things to remember about Grace Period Registration & Voting:

  • During the grace period, you must register in person—and then immediately vote during that same visit.
  • Bring two forms of ID. Neither needs to be a photo ID, but one must include your current address. Acceptable forms of ID include: Illinois driver’s license, Illinois state ID, Employee or student ID, credit card, social security card, birth certificate, utility bill in your name, mail postmarked to you, valid U.S. passport, lease or rental contract.
  • Grace Period registrants vote on touch-screen machines immediately after registering.
  • Grace period registrants are not eligible to vote at the polls on Election Day.


Should I register to vote at my Columbia address or at my permanent address?

It’s up to you. If you have lived at your Columbia address for at least 30 days before November 6, 2012, you may register to vote with that address. You should research the candidates and issues that will appear on both ballots and decide which matter most to you and/or where your vote will have the most impact.

What are we voting for in Chicago? 

In the November 6 General Election, voters will cast ballots that include:

  • President & Vice President of the United States
  • Representatives in U.S. Congress (all districts)
  • State Senators (all districts)
  • Representatives in the Illinois General Assembly (all districts)
  • Commissioners (3) for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
  • Judges (Illinois Supreme, Appellate and Circuit Courts)
  • Cook County State’s Attorney, Circuit Court Clerk and Recorder of Deeds
  • Members of the Cook County Board of Review (tax appeals) (all districts)
  • Referenda questions (in Chicago, there will be four questions concerning pensions, electrical service, Chicago teacher pensions, and corporate donations to political campaigns)


What will my ballot look like? Where do I go to vote?

Remember that you can print out your ballot, mark it up with your voting preferences, and take it into the voting booth with you. You do not have to vote on memory alone!

On Election Day you must go only to the polling place and precinct assigned to you.

You can see and print your exact ballot and polling place at the following websites:

If you want to see what referenda might appear on your ballot, the IL State Board of Elections provides a handy Referenda Search. (It’s a bit clunky, so you’re better off just looking at your exact ballot using the links above.)


What time are the polls open? 

Polls are open from 6:00am to 7:00pm on Election Day, November 6, 2012.


Do I have to declare a political party preference?

No. Your ballot will include all parties’ candidates for each office.


What kind of voting equipment will I use?

You may choose to use a paper ballot or an electronic touch-screen machine. Instructions should be posted at your polling place; you can also ask an election judge for assistance. Visit the Board of Elections website for more info.


What if I show up and they tell me I can’t vote?

If you believe you are registered to vote and are at the correct polling place, ask for a “provisional ballot.” The election judges must provide you with at least a provisional ballot. They cannot turn you away. If they deny you the right to vote, call the Board of Elections office at (312) 269-7870. (Take the phone number with you to your polling place just in case.)

Don’t be shy about this. You have every right to cast your ballot without interference or intimidation. And you have every right to tell your election authority to come out to your polling place if anyone gives you trouble.

There are more rules and regulations about provisional voting that you should read. Please visit the following for more info:


What is a “Federal Office Only” or “Fail-Safe” ballot?

A person who moved from their registration address more than 30 days before the election and who did not re-register is not eligible to vote for state or local offices, but may still vote a “Federal Office Only” or “Fail-Safe” ballot. However, the move must have occurred within the same jurisdiction (i.e. from one Chicago address to another Chicago address; or from one suburban Cook County address to another suburban Cook County address.) The voter in this instance must return to the polling place for the old address where he or she was registered, AND there must still be a record of that person’s registration at the polling place of the old address.

If a person moved from Chicago to the suburbs (or vice versa), that voter is not eligible to vote a “Federal Office Only” or “Fail-Safe” ballot.


What is on a “Federal Office Only” or “Fail-Safe” ballot?

The federal offices on a “Federal Office Only” or “Fail Safe” ballot are

  • President and Vice President of the United States
  • Representatives in Congress

How do I know which judges to vote for?

Voting for judges is important. It’s a big part of your ballot, but it doesn’t take a lot of extra work to figure out which ones to support.

In Cook County, go to VoteForJudges.org. Read through the home page and then go to the Evaluations page to get your guide. (The charts are toward the bottom of the page.)

You can print out the PDF version, highlight the judges you want to vote for, and take that with you into the voting booth.

In the rest of IL, check the Illinois State Bar Association’s evaluations. The ISBA is only one of the bar associations included in the VoteForJudges Cook County guide, but it’s the only current statewide guide we’ve been able to find.

What is early voting and where/when can I do it?

Chicago voters have the option of voting before Election Day. Early voting will be offered Monday, October 22 to Saturday, November 3.

If you are registered in the city of Chicago, you may use any Early Voting site in the city, regardless of where you live.

You don’t need a special reason to vote early. You do need to show a government-issued photo ID to vote early.

If you vote early, you may do so only once, and you cannot vote again on Election Day.

Early voting locations:


In-person absentee voting

Any voter needing or wishing to vote by absentee in the final two days prior to the election may vote an in-person absentee ballot.

For the November 6, 2012 Election, in-person absentee voting will be conducted November 4-5 at the Board of Elections office, 69 W. Washington, lower level. The hours are as follows:

  • Sunday, November 4: 9am to noon
  • Monday, November 5: 9am to 5pm


Absentee voting by mail

Absentee voting by mail is a convenient way to cast your ballot if you are unable to get to your polling place on Election Day or to cast your ballot during Early Voting at a designated Early Voting site.

Any registered voter may apply for an absentee ballot. It is no longer necessary to provide a reason.

To obtain an absentee application, registered Cook County voters can:

  • Download and print the application, or
  • Call the Chicago Board of Elections at (312) 269-7967 to request that they mail you an application, or
  • Pick one up at the Board of Elections office at 69 W. Washington, 6th floor.

The last day to apply for a mail-in absentee ballot is November 1, 2012.

For more info:

Do I need to show ID to vote?

There are several situations when voters need to show ID before voting. For detailed info on when you may be asked to show ID, please visit the Chicago Board of Elections website.

Know Your Rights

This is your Voter Bill of Rights. Read it – it’s important.

Voter Bill of Rights

  1. Cast your ballot in a non-disruptive atmosphere free of interference.
  2. Vote if you’re in line by 7pm.
  3. Vote by provisional ballot if your registration is not found.
  4. Vote a full ballot at your old polling place if you have moved within 30 days of the election.
  5. Request voting assistance, if needed.
  6. Bring newspaper endorsements or sample ballots into the voting booth.
  7. Protect the secrecy of your ballot.
  8. Receive a new ballot if you make a mistake or change your mind.
  9. Review your ballot to ensure it’s complete and correct.
  10. Have your ballot counted fairly and impartially.

Other resources


Voter Guides: Here are endorsements from some organizations and media outlets around Chicago. Use them at your own discretion. (We'll be updating this list throughout October and November.)

Have more questions?

Lastly, if you have any questions at all about this year’s elections, please ASK US. We would be very happy to help you.

You can reach us any of the following ways: