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Clerk changes vote registration travel edict

Willard Helander

Willard Helander

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For more information on voter registration, call the county clerk’s office at (847) 377-2410 or visit

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Updated: December 10, 2012 1:57AM

A decision by Lake County Clerk Willard Helander to move grace period voter registration for the Nov. 6 presidential election from Waukegan to Libertyville was apparently modified Wednesday after a call from the Lake County News-Sun.

The NAACP Lake County Branch and local Democratic leaders accused Helander, a Republican, of attempting to suppress the vote by forcing later registrants who live along the county’s shoreline to travel to the Lake County Central Permit Facility, 500 W. Winchester Road, in Libertyville.

A Lake County Clerk’s Office staff member said Wednesday, Oct. 10, the first day of the 27-day grace registration period, that the decision to relocate the process had to do with space and parking issues. The clerk’s Web site makes no mention that grace registration — and the voting required immediately upon such registration or change of address — is still available at the clerk’s main office at 18 N. County St., Waukegan.

But a press release issued by Helander’s office late Wednesday morning declared: “As always, residents of North Chicago, Waukegan, Beach Park, Zion and Winthrop Harbor” as well as “any person in the county complex on business” may register in the clerk’s office from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Helander staffer was unsure if voters would be served there on the two Saturdays — Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 — stipulated for grace registration.

Helander did not return calls seeking comment.

But Lake County Board District 9 Rep. Mary Ross Cunningham of Waukegan said that when she raised concerns Tuesday, the day of the County Board meeting, about access for voters in her district, Helander offered her some advice.

“She said to a get a bus or van and take them out there (Libertyville),” Cunningham said. “I think it’s disrespectful.”

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, who also chairs the Lake County Democratic Party, said Helander balked at a legislative proposal to allow county clerks to add locations for grace registration to make voting easier.

“She was adamantly opposed to it,” Link said. “She said it was unnecessary and would be cost-prohibitive to move apparatus and personnel to a different location.”

Under 2012 amendments to the state’s Election Code, the deadline for grace period registration is extended until the third day before the election and the election authority may designate a grace period registration location outside the authority’s office.

“The intent was to make registering and voting more accessible,” Link said. “Willard’s trying to do the opposite.”

Karen Carstens, president of the NAACP Lake County Branch, said Helander declined to advertise the availability of grace registration in the Lake County Building.

“Her comment was she’s going to leave that up to the (Lake County) board members,” Carstens said. “That’s clearly an inappropriate response. She’s trying to disenfranchise minority voters in Waukegan and North Chicago, the two largest cities in Lake County.”

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