THE LOOP — Did Monday's presidential debate suddenly give you the compulsion to vote? If so, you're not alone, but you might not be able to put off registration as long as you might've liked.
Since 2014, 110,000 people in Illinois took advantage of Election Day registration in the state, which allowed people to show up to the polls, register and vote the day of the election. Now, on National Voter Registration Day and just six weeks before the presidential election, that is being taken away.
U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan issued an injunction against Election Day registration Tuesday, after a Republican-run group that supports Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner sued claiming the practice is unconstitutional.
Cook County Clerk David Orr immediately railed against the court ruling and promised to appeal.
"I am extremely disappointed that a U.S. district judge granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Election Day registration in precincts," Orr said in a statement. "This lawsuit was a thinly veiled partisan effort by the right-wing Illinois Policy Institute to disenfranchise voters.
Orr said changing the rules a little over a month before the general election Nov. 8 "is irresponsible and undermines our democracy," adding, "This ruling will lead to confusion at the polls on what may be one of the most watched Election Days in our time."
While Orr's office said there are plans to appeal the same day registration ruling, other current practices on voter registration remain intact. Prospective voters can register by mail through Oct. 11 or in person at the office of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on the sixth floor of the Dunne Building, 69 W. Washington Blvd., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Nov. 7. They can also register online with a valid state ID through Oct. 23.
After that, grace-period registration and voting are permissible, although at the moment not extended to Election Day. Early voting begins Thursday in Chicago on the lower level of the Dunne Building, then shifts to 15 W. Washington on Oct. 10. On Oct. 24, additional early voting locations open in each of the city's 50 wards running through Nov. 7, the day before Election Day. Voters can register and vote the same day before then, but will need two acceptable forms of identification.
"We were receiving about 120 to 140 online registrations daily," said Marisel Hernandez, chairwoman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. "Suddenly [Friday] morning, that number in our inbox jumped to more than 1,400."
Yet Monday's presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump was something else entirely. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that, during the debate, Google searches for the phrase "registrarse para votar" — "register to vote" in Spanish — hit an all-time high at more than 100,000 searches.
Election Board spokesman Jim Allen said Tuesday it was too early to collect data on whether the city has seen heightened voter registration in minority wards.
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