Illinois Now Lets 17-Year-Olds Vote

Mar 18, 2014

A new group of voters is taking part in Illinois' primary election. A recently adopted law aims to get teens more involved with the voting process.

Illinois is now the 20th state that allows 17-year-old's to vote in the primary, if their 18th birthday comes before the general election in November. Supporters say it can help teens become more engaged with the issues, and can help to boost low voter turnout during primaries.

Winnebago County Clerk Margie Mullins says it's a noble cause. But she says there's one problem.

“The way the law is written, it’s only for 17-year-old kids in the even numbered years,” Mullins said.

Mullins says that shuts 17-year-old's out when it comes to municipal elections in odd numbered years. Supports of the law say they're working to get that language changed.


Meanwhile, the state board of elections says roughly 11-thousand eligible teens have signed up to vote under the new provision. The response has been strong in some areas. But Mullins says that was not the case for her office. However, she says it can improve with more awareness.

“Maybe the County Clerks can visit the schools,” Mullins said.

Mullins says getting more teachers to talk about it in the classroom would also help. The League of Women Voters has been active in many parts of the state in their attempt to get teens to register.