Hello all! For those who don’t know me, my name is Emily, I’m the new Avodah Organizing Fellow at JCUA and couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of JCUA’s staff! While I’m new to JCUA in this role, some of you may know me from staffing the past three summers of Or Tzedek – JCUA’s summer teen program, from when I was a JCUA intern in 2015, or from when I was myself a teen involved in teen programming. I am so thankful to have had JCUA help me ground my politics in action and be a part of bringing the broader Chicago Jewish community into such important organizing efforts across the Chicago area and state of Illinois.
A bit more about me– I recently graduated from Oberlin College where I majored in Comparative American Studies, with a concentration in Histories and Practices of Social Change, and a double major in Religion. These two focuses brought me to think deeply about social change and the role of religious communities in building power for political change. This year, as part of Avodah, I live with 14 other young Jews working at different social change organizations across the city of Chicago.
One of the first things I’m focusing on at the start of my new role is the upcoming elections. In particular I’m thinking about how JCUA’s work relates to voting, voter registration, and turning out for the November 6th election. I’ve been reflecting on how we as an organization, and as individuals, can utilize our networks to make sure people we are in community with are registered to vote by October 9th and turn out to vote for November 6th.
Through the process of educating myself about voter registration and the Get Out the Vote campaign for the upcoming election, both in the office and out of it, I’ve been reminded of how hard it is to find all the information I and others need to be registered to vote. I found the Illinois Board of Elections website to be a little confusing and cumbersome, and I needed to know to go there in the first place. There are so many little details and pieces of information you need to know from how to register, to deadlines, to where to go vote, to who will be on the ballot. I’ve been reflecting on the ways all of this contributes to larger systemic voting barriers. I’m someone who is broadly politically informed and who for my job is spending time and energy figuring out the information I need to be able to vote and vote in an informed manner, and still I don’t feel like I’m as fully informed as I can be. It’s a reminder to me how hard it is to have the information we need to know HOW to vote, let alone be informed about WHO we want to vote for and how we want to vote on ballot initiatives.
While getting folks out to vote isn’t the primary focus of JCUA’s work, it’s critical to have elected officials that feel accountable to us. We want to elect officials who share our values in order for our advocacy to be most impactful. This is why it’s important that we all have the information we need and that we share that information with our friends, family, communities, and broader networks.
This question of how we can tap into our own individual networks as a way to make sure our community votes has also been on my mind outside of the office. Many of my 14 Avodah housemates are new to Illinois, and we all moved recently. Many of us are figuring out for ourselves how to register to vote in Illinois or update our registration. In this process, I’ve come up against confusing rules that I’d never thought about before, a reminder of all of the small barriers to voting. For example, we need to live in the election precinct for 30 days before we can register to vote but need to register 28 days before the election, giving us a small window to register. I recently discovered that you can only register to vote online if you have an illinois driver’s license, otherwise you need to mail in a form or register in person. And to be frank, finding information on these rules took me more time than I’d like to admit. I wondered if I just didn’t know how to navigate the websites, if I was looking in the right places, or if I was just confusing myself. Perhaps this is part of the problem, that I took on this difficulty as an individual problem rather than seeing it as a systemic one.
In addition to finding out information for myself and my house mates, I’ve been able to better inform my friends and community about all the information I do have about voter registration and voter turnout. Just last weekend I was hanging out with friends only to learn they are registered to vote at old addresses and didn’t know they could update registration without updating their drivers licenses– I was able to share the information I had with them and the next morning send them the link to register to vote online.These individual conversations don’t address larger systemic barriers to voting, but they do the important work of making sure our communities are civically engaged, allowing us to build more power to have more impact on the issues that are important to us.
With all of this in mind, here is some of the information you or other folks you are connected to might be looking for in order to vote on November 6 —
- You must be a US Citizen and 18 years old by November 6th (you can register now if you will be 18 by the election).
- You must register to vote 28 days before the election; this year that is October 9th.
- You can register “in person” on election day if you provide 2 forms of identification.
- If you moved addresses, you must update your registration. You must have lived in your election precinct for 30 days to register.
- Want to check if you are registered to vote? You can look that up here: https://ova.elections.il.gov/RegistrationLookup.aspx
- You can register to vote online at https://ova.elections.il.gov/ if you have an IL drivers license.
- You can register to vote by mailing in the registration form, which can be found here https://elections.il.gov/Downloads/VotingInformation/PDF/R-19.pdf. You must fill in all boxes in order for the registration card to be valid.
- The election is November 6th and early voting has already begun in some locations.
- If you live in Chicago, a detailed list of when and where early voting is open can be found at this link: https://chicagoelections.com/en/early-voting.html
- Want to figure out your polling location? You can find that here: https://ova.elections.il.gov/PollingPlaceLookup.aspx
- If you want to vote-by-mail, the deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot is November 1st.