Voter registration drives in high gear as Early Voting nears

A RESIDENT REGISTERS to vote at a drive at the headquarters of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. From left to right: Brad Minniefield, Omega Psi Phi, Mary Gardner, Deputy Register and Brian McCoy, Omega Psi Phi. (Photo by Brian McCoy)

Crusader Staff Report

Voter registration drives have swung into high gear in Chicago’s Black neighborhoods as the General Election on November 3 nears.

On Friday, September 18, The National Urban League and BET Networks kicked off the inaugural National Black Voters Day to boost voter turnout in the upcoming General Election on November 3.

The day served to help Black citizens nationwide fight against suppression tactics and ensure that their vote count.

“The final stretch is always the most important part of any race, and with just 100 days until Election Day, there’s no time like the present for BET to go ‘all in’ with National Black Voter Day,” BET Networks President Scott Mills said.

“We are rallying all the resources and relationships we have to mitigate the undeniable efforts being made to disenfranchise the African American community, a voting bloc ubiquitously understood to influence elections. We will use the current momentum of the fight against systemic racism to galvanize those marching in protest to march to the polls in November.”

In Chicago, members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity on Saturday, September 19, held an all-day voter registration drive outside the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters.

TREMAINE GARDNER, 18 with his mother, Catherine Garner. (Photo by Brian McCoy)

A week earlier, the Black fraternity held a similar voter registration drive outside the Local Market store in the Jeffrey Plaza in South Shore. But last Saturday’s registration drive at Rainbow PUSH seemed busier with Early Voting more than a week away. Volunteers in the fraternity’s signature colored purple and gold T-shirts stood on street corners with large signs to attract voter registration applicants.

They found one new applicant, Tremaine Gardner, Jr. who at 18 years old, became a registered voter for the first time in his life. He came with his mother.

“I felt good with all the support behind me,” Gardner said.

“It’s [Voting] always been a big thing for my family,” Gardner said. We know our ancestors did not have the right to vote. So, I just felt it was important for me to get out and register to vote.”

Gardner said President Donald Trump’s divisive leadership in the White House was a factor in his registering to vote.

“I feel that he’s not doing a good job right now,” Gardner said. “Ever since he’s been in office, things have been going down.”

Gardner also said police brutality remains an important issue to him as well. Gardner said he plans to vote in person on Election Day.

Applicants can also register to vote during Early Voting, which starts Monday, October 1 at the Loop Super Site at 191 N. Clark in downtown Chicago.

TREMAIN GARDNER JR, 18, registers to vote for the first time in front of Rainbow PUSH headquarters in Hyde Park. (Photo by Brian McCoy)

New Applicants need either a driver’s license or Illinois state ID to register to vote.

On October 14, Early Voting sites will open in all 50 wards. These sites will also allow applicants to register to vote.

All Early Voting sites will have secured drop boxes for people to place mail-in ballots.

Ballots can also be returned by USPS, FedEx or UPS.

Early voters are encouraged to wear a facemask that covers the mouth and nose, whether they are casting a ballot in person or using a secured drop box. Voters in line must maintain a social distance of six feet.

In the 2016 presidential election, there were 1,570,529 voters in Chicago.

According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, there are 8,097,601 active voters in Illinois and 626,611 inactive voters or residents whose addresses have not been confirmed but can still vote.

In Chicago, there are over 1.5 million active voters, but more than 270,000 are inactive.

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