Student Voting Guide | Illinois
This student voter guide explains the laws for the state of Illinois. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voter guide for the state in which you attend school. If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voter guide for that state.
The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, a report that we issued last year documents a number of these changes and we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.
This voting guide was last updated in February 2012.
http://www.elections.state.il.us/ (registration form available online)
The deadline for both in-person and mail voter registration is the 28th day before an election.[ i] The last day to register for the 2012 general election is October 9, 2012. You may mail your registration application if you are absent from your county of residence,[ii] and mailed forms must be postmarked by that date.[iii] You may register or change your registration address in person up to the 7th day before an election, by filing “grace period” registration.[iv] If you register to vote during this “grace period,” you must vote in person at the county elections office or other specially designated “grace period” locations, or vote by mail.[v] Your vote will be counted so long as it is determined to be valid.[vi]
Voters who register in person must show two forms of identification, including one that shows your current address. Acceptable ID includes, but is not limited to: a driver's license, Social Security card, public aid identification card, utility bill, employee or student identification card, residential lease or contract, credit card, or a civic, union or professional association membership card.[vii]
You can register to vote if you will be 18 by the next general election.[viii]
Illinois law requires voters to be residents of Illinois and the election district where they intend to vote for 30 days preceding an election.[ix] In order to be considered a “resident of Illinois,” you must have a “permanent abode” in the election district;[x] a “permanent abode” requires both physical presence and intent to remain at that address.[xi] Recent interpretations establish that (1) you do not need to intend to remain in that residence forever,[xii] and (2) if you have two locations that could reasonably be considered your permanent abode, you can choose between them.[xiii]
At School. Students can establish residency in Illinois if they have a present intention to remain at their Illinois school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home.[xiv] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional. In practice, the state elections division lets students choose whether they want to register at their previous address or at their school address. However, Illinois courts have indicated that they will presume that students have a permanent abode at their parents’ address. [xv]
At Home. Students who live in Illinois but move to another state for school, and who wish to establish or keep their Illinois voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ address), should have no problem doing so unless they register to vote in another state. Like most states, Illinois allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the county or state to attend school. The only way you can lose this residency is if you “abandon” it by asserting residency in a new state.[xvi] While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of residency in Illinois, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Illinois with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in Illinois.
Challenges to Residency. Under Illinois law, if the registration officer believes that you are not a resident, you will have to appear before the county clerk in order to complete your registration.[xvii] If the clerk finds that you are ineligible to register due to residency, you may appeal to a state court.[xviii]
If your eligibility to vote is challenged at the polls on Election Day, you will still be able to cast a regular ballot if you complete an affidavit swearing that you are a resident and provide two forms of ID that have your current address,[xix] or have a witness who is registered in the precinct swear to your residency.[xx] If a majority of the election judges at the polls make a determination that you are not a resident, you are still entitled to cast a provisional ballot.[xxi] The provisional ballot will be counted if the county clerk or board of election commissioners determine that you are an eligible voter.[xxii] You have the right to provide additional information about your provisional ballot to the clerk or board within two calendar days after the election.[xxiii]
Voting in Illinois may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws governing residents. [xxiv]
Only first-time voters who register by mail and do not have their identity verified by the state must provide ID, either when voting in person or by submitting a copy of their ID with their registration form.[xxv] Sufficient proof of identity includes: driver’s license number, State ID card number, the last four digits of your social security card, a copy of a current and valid photo ID, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other federal, State, or local government document showing your name and address.[xxvi] You may also use a college or university issued photo ID, along with either a copy of your contract or lease for your residence, or postmarked mail delivered to your current address. [xxvii]
Any voter registered in Illinois who expects to be away from her county of registration on Election Day - including those attending school away from their voting address - is entitled to vote by absentee ballot.[xxviii] Applications for absentee ballots that are mailed in must be received by the county clerk five days before the election, while absentee ballot applications made in person can be made up to one day before the election.[xxix] Some counties may allow you to apply for an absentee ballot online; check your local elections website for information.
You must return your absentee ballot to the election authority in person before the closing of the polls.[xxx] If you mail in your absentee ballot, it must be postmarked by midnight on the day before the election and received within 14 days after the election.[xxxi]
First-time voters who registered by mail and whose identity was not verified by the state must provide a copy of valid ID before they may apply for an absentee ballot (see Identification section, above, for more details).[xxxii]
As a convenience to voters, Illinois has early voting which begins 22 days before an election and ends on the 5th day before Election Day.[xxxiii] At most early voting sites, you can vote any precinct’s ballot for that county.[xxxiv] You should contact your local elections office for locations and hours.
Last Updated in February 2012
[i] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-6, 5/5-5, 5/6-29 (West 2011). See also, Information for Voters, Ill. State Bd. Of Elections, http://www.elections.state.il.us/InfoForVoters.aspx (last visited Feb. 2, 2012).
[ii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-10, 5/5-9, 5/6-37.
[iii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/1A-16(b).
[iv] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-50, 5/5-50, 5/6-100.
[v] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-50, 5/5-50, 5/6-100.
[vi] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-50, 5/5-50, 5/6-100.
[vii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-10, 5/5-9, 5/6-37.
[viii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-1.
[ix] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-1.
[x] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-2(a).
[xi] Maksym v. Bd. Of Election Comm’rs of Chicago, 242 Ill.2d 303, 319 (Ill. 2011).
[xii] Dillavou v. Cty Officers Electoral Bd. Of Sangamon Cty, 260 I..App.3d 127, 133 (App. Ct. of Ill., 4th Dist. 1994) (“A person can acquire a domicile if he is personally present in a place and elects that as his home even if he never intends to remain in that physical structure on a permanent basis.”).
[xiii] People ex rel. Madigan v. Baumgartner, 355 Ill.App.3d 842, 849–50 (Ill. App. Ct. 2005).
[xiv] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).
[xv] However, in People ex rel Madigan v. Baumgartner, 355 Ill.App.3d 842, 848 (Appell. Ct. Ill, 4th Dist. 2005), the court noted that “the courts in Illinois have long held that a student in a college town is presumed not to have changed his residence to the town in which he is attending school.”
[xvi] Maksym v. Bd. Of Election Comm’rs of Chicago, 242 Ill.2d 303, 319 (Ill. 2011) (“once a person has established residence, he or she can be physically absent from that residence for months or even years without having abandoned it” so long as the voter intends only a temporary absence from the state).
[xvii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-10; 5/5-9; 5/6-37 (in certain, cities, villages and incorporated towns, you will have to appear before the board of election commissioners, not the county clerk, but the process is the same).
[xviii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-13; .
[xix] Proof of residence may include a lease or contract for a residence and no more than one piece of mail postmarked within 30 days of the Election and addressed to you at your current residence. 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/17-10(a).
[xx] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/17-10.
[xxi] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-5.
[xxii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-15(b).
[xxiii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/18A-15(d).
[xxiv] 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/6-101; 5/6-102 (driver’s licenses); 625 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-101 (vehicle registration); 35 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/201 (income tax).
[xxv] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.
[xxvi] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.
[xxvii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/4-105; 5/5-105; 5/6-105.
[xxviii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-1.
[xxix] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-2.
[xxx] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-8(b).
[xxxi] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-8(c).
[xxxiii] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19A-15.
[xxxiv] 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19A-10(a–b).