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Registered voters in Chicago drop nearly a quarter million since 2008

Chicago’s total number registered voters has fallen 225000 1.27 millisince presidential electifour years ago. | Sun-Times MediFile

Chicago’s total number of registered voters has fallen 225,000 to 1.27 million, since the presidential election four years ago. | Sun-Times Media File

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Updated: September 25, 2012 6:29PM

Nearly a quarter-million fewer Chicagoans have registered to vote in the 2012 presidential election than registered in 2008, the city’s election board chairman warned Tuesday.

Blaming a lower level of enthusiasm among the young voters who helped send Barack Obama to the White House four years ago, Chicago Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal said the city’s total number of registered voters has fallen 225,000 to 1.27 million,

With just two weeks left to register in time for November’s election, nearly 60,000 fewer 18- to 24-year-olds and nearly 80,000 fewer 25- to 34- year-olds have registered to vote than had by Election Day in 2008, he said.

In suburban Cook County, the number of registered voters has dropped from 1.44 million on Election Day in 2008 to 1.36 million as of Monday.

“There was clearly a lot of excitement at least here in Chicago around our president, who was from Chicago — it captured the interest of our young voters in particular, and I don’t think we have seen that same level of enthusiasm yet,” Neal said.

“We still have a large hill to overcome to get to where we were four years ago.”

In a bid to attract younger voters, the Chicago Election Board is allowing smartphone and tablet computer users to start the registration process online. Users can fill out an application on their phone, computer or tablet, then have a completed form for sent to their home to be signed and returned, Neal said.

In contrast to the decline in the total number of registered voters and younger voters, an aging population means the number of voters above the age of 65 have increased by more than 12,000 since 2008.

Officials said the uncontested Democratic presidential primary this year — compared to the heated race in 2008 — has contributed to the low registration so far. Many voters registered early so that they could take part in the 2008 primary, they said.

Efforts to remove voters who have moved residences from the electoral rolls are also partly to blame, they said, urging voters who have moved without informing the Board of Elections to re-register.

Online applications are available until Oct. 1. Completed registration forms must be mailed back to the Board of Elections with a postmark dated Oct. 9 or earlier, or can be completed at the Board of Elections office at 69 West Washington or at any Secretary of State ID or driver’s license office.

After Oct. 9, unregistered voters can only register in person at the Board of Elections office — and they’ll have to vote there and then when they do so, Neal said.

“As we all know this is a critically important election — it’s a presidential election and we have a very long ballot,” Neal said. “We encourage our voters to register so that they can participate.”

In suburban Cook County, among 18- to 34-year-olds, there are about 50,000 fewer registered voters than four years ago, according to Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.

But for those 55 and older, there is 40,000 more registered voters than in 2008.

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