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Phoenix 101: What Can Students Do to Prepare for the Presidential Primaries?

Mary Chappell | The PhoenixThe Phoenix answered some of students’ most common questions ahead of Illinois’ Primary Election March 17.

Presidential primary elections have kicked off across the United States, and Loyola students will soon have the opportunity to cast their own ballots. 

Illinois’ primary election — when voters choose candidates for the presidential election — will take place March 17. 

The Phoenix answered some of the most common questions ahead of Election Day.

How do I know if I’m registered to vote? 

Students can check their voting status online — at www.vote.org —  to see if they’re already registered to vote. 

Voters only need to register once, so students who registered to vote in a previous election don’t need to register again, according to Illinois’ election website.  

However, if students no longer live at the address where they were previously registered to vote, they need to register again with their new addresses or vote using absentee ballots — a ballot that’s mailed in ahead of Election Day.

Students who want to register out-of-state can use www.vote.org to find their states’ individual websites. 

How can I register to vote? 

Students can register to vote in Illinois online, at ww.ova.elections.il.gov. The deadline for registering to vote in the primary online in Illinois is March 1.

There’s also on-site voter registration throughout Illinois, which means students can register to vote at their polling place on Election Day. Students can find their polling place online, at the Cook County clerk’s website. 

Regardless of where you register to vote in Illinois, you’ll need to bring a form of identification, which could be a driver’s license, mail that shows your address or any form of identification listed on Illinois’ election website.  

Vivian Mikhail, the communications manager for the department of civic engagement at Loyola, said students often think they only need one form of identification when registering to vote, but Illinois residents need a form of identification and their social security numbers, she said. 

When can I vote in Illinois? 

Early voting in Chicago began Feb. 19 and is offered only at 191 N. Clark St., according to Chicago’s election website. Beginning March 2, Chicago residents can cast early votes at any polling place until the day of the actual primary. 

What if I plan on voting in another state? 

Since primary elections are handled on a state-by-state basis, each state has its own rules and regulations throughout the process. For a specific list of deadlines for each state, students can check www.vote.org, which is a website that consolidates voting information across states. 

Students who plan on voting in another state should have already requested an absentee ballot and should be receiving it in the coming weeks, Mikhail said.  Students can find state-by-state deadlines online, through www.vote.org.

For students who haven’t yet requested or received an absentee ballot, Mikhail said she recommends visiting or calling their local board of elections. 

“The timelines are different for every single state, but by the end of February, [students] definitely have to get started on their absentee ballots or get started on acquiring them at the very least,” Mikhail said. 

Mikhail said a common misconception students have is absentee ballots don’t actually get counted. However, she said as long as an absentee ballot is postmarked by the deadline, it will be counted no matter when it arrives at its destination.  

Can I vote anywhere in Illinois once I’m registered? 

Polling stations are assigned based the address on your voter registration and people can only vote at their assigned polling station, according to Illinois’ election website

Students who are registered to vote in Illinois — but not with their Loyola address — may need to fill out an absentee ballot, participate in early voting or travel to the polling station they were assigned. 

Does my vote even matter? 

Mikhail said she often hears students say their vote doesn’t matter or that voting is pointless. 

“You’ll never know what your vote can sway or how much your vote can sway your state or district,” Mikhail said. “Every single vote does count. … We’ve seen it play out in history, we’ve seen states nearly go to a completely different color just by a few hundred votes, or even by a few dozen.”  

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