Voting 101: Illinois Primary Election

The Illinois primary elections are Tuesday.

If you’ve never voted, or you’ve never voted in Illinois, or you haven’t voted in a primary, here are the basics you need to know to be an informed voter and enjoy the experience:

1. Make sure you’re registered to vote. Illinois voters must register in advance, so if you’re not registered now, get registered so you can vote in the general election in November. You can register to vote at most public libraries and municipal offices.

2. Determine your voting precinct. You can almost certainly find this online (in Kane County, click here; in DeKalb or other counties, click here), but if not, call the county clerk’s office.

3. Decide which primary you’re voting in. A primary election is the means by which parties choose their candidate for the general election. This means you can vote in the Republican primary for Republican candidates or the Democratic primary for Democratic candidates but not a mix of both. You might also have the option of other parties, like Green, or a nonpartisan ballot, which includes issues but not candidates. For example, in Hampshire, residents will have the option to vote for electric aggregation — which is a presumably cheaper alternative to ComEd. That question will be on all ballots, and it is the only question on the nonpartisan ballot (not sure on this issue? Vote yes unless you are employed by ComEd — ultimately it should save you money).

In any case, if you’re not sure which party to affiliate with, a simple litmus test would be this: If you think you want Obama to be president for four more years, vote in the Democratic primary. If don’t like Obama, you probably ought to vote in the Republican primary or another party’s primary (like the Green party). The Republican primary election is very lively this year because there are several viable Republican candidates for president.

If you’re 100% sure you’d classify yourself as an independent voter, you probably should ask for a nonpartisan ballot and just vote on the issues. Let the parties determine who their best candidates are, and you can pick from among them in the general election in November.

4.Print out a sample ballot and get informed on the candidates. See the links above for sample ballots for all parties. You may bring your sample ballot and your notes to the polling place.

If the only person you want to vote for is the candidate for president, you can find information on almost any reputable news website or type the candidate’s name into Google and go directly to the candidate’s website. Whatever you do, if you vote in the Republican primary, don’t vote for Rick Perry. Insults aside, he’s dropped out of the race but his name is still on the ballot. Voting for him is essentially a vote for Newt Gingrich, since Perry has endorsed Gingrich. If that’s what you want, you might as well vote for Gingrich.

Besides voting for the candidate for president, you’ll get the opportunity to vote for the delegate(s) to the party’s convention. You should choose delegates who match your candidate vote.

Besides the presidential race, there are a number of contested races for county seats in Kane County, especially on the Republican side, so it behooves you to be informed. If you’d prefer, simply vote for the candidates you know and leave the other races blank.

5. Show up at the polls between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is when lines will be shortest. If you can’t make it in the middle of the day, show up anyway and do the duty of a proper citizen.

If you’ve never voted before, find a friend to go to the polls with you. As in all things in life, there is courage in numbers.

The state of the nation depends on an informed electorate. Voting is a small but important act of citizenship. Exercise your right.

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