FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Maryam Judar
August 27, 2015 Executive Director/Community Lawyer
Citizen Advocacy Center (630) 833-4080
CITIZEN ADVOCACY CENTER AND AREA HIGH SCHOOLS
WELCOME NELI FARAHMANDPOUR, TEEN VOTING ADVOCATE,
TO CELEBRATE CONSTITUTION WEEK
A former Stevenson High School student who helped win enactment of “Suffrage at 17” — a law that allows Illinois 17-year-olds to vote in primaries — will be the featured speaker at 2015 Constitution Week events co-sponsored by the Citizen Advocacy Center and area high schools. She will also be speaking at an evening forum to be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2015 at the Citizen Advocacy Center office, 182 N. York Street, Elmhurst, Illinois.
Neli Farahmandpour, a 2014 Stevenson graduate, will speak at suburban high schools about the First Amendment’s right to petition as an important thread in the fabric of American democracy.
“I think that everyone is passionate about at least one topic, and I sincerely hope that students across the state can use their constitutional rights to lobby for what they believe in,” said Farahmandpour, currently a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “And while that may not always be easy and may involve a lot of time and effort, every single student in Illinois is capable of contributing to changes that they would like to see in our state.”
Observed annually from Sept. 17 to 23, Constitution Week commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Celebrating this event is a way to remember the importance of a document held in esteem worldwide for empowering “We the People” with the rights and responsibilities to engage in the democratic process. In particular, the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition are essential to ensure a healthy democracy and hold government accountable.
“Constitution Week recognizes the importance of our founding document by introducing students and adults to constitutional issues through dynamic speakers with firsthand knowledge of what it means to fight for freedom,” said Andrea Alvarez, community lawyer at Citizen Advocacy Center. “Ms. Farahmandpour knows from her own experience the significant role that students can play in creating political change thanks to the First Amendment’s right to petition, and she has a remarkable personal story to share.”
During a summer class before her junior year in high school, Farahmandpour learned about “Suffrage at 17” — a proposal, already law in several other states, that 17-year-olds be permitted to vote in primary elections if they are going to turn 18 by the time of the general election. Her instructor, Stevenson government teacher Andrew Conneen, broached the subject while he took attendance one day.
“He asked a fellow classmate when his birthday was, and the student replied that it was in May,” she said. “I distinctly remember Mr. Conneen turning to him and asking, ‘Now wouldn’t it be great if you were allowed to vote in the primary elections?’ ”
As president of Stevenson’s Law Club, Farahmandpour recognized the potential lobbying power that her classmates could bring on behalf of a bill changing the Illinois voting age for primaries. By early 2013, HB- 226 had been introduced in the General Assembly with bipartisan support.
“Stevenson’s Law Club and Political Action Club teamed up to host meetings regarding the proposed law and what it would entail,” Farahmandpour recalled. “In March of 2013, several students from the two clubs went to Springfield to meet with members of the Illinois Senate to lobby for the bill. I had the distinct honor of testifying in front of the Senate Executive Committee, alongside Mr. Conneen, where we were able explain why we thought passing Suffrage at 17 would be so beneficial.”
The House passed the bill in April by a vote of 95-22, and a month later the Senate passed it 43-9. Then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law July 3 in a ceremony at Stevenson High School, with Farahmandpour and other students looking on.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned was the value of bipartisan support,” she said. “I don’t think Suffrage at 17 would have passed if we didn’t have support from members belonging to both political parties. I also learned the importance of working together as a community. Everyone worked really hard — not individually but as a team.”
Farahmandpour’s experience with the First Amendment right to petition turned out to be a successful one. She believes other young people can achieve similar success if they’re willing to take the initiative and become engaged in civic life.
“One major point that I would really like to get across to my audiences during Constitution Week is the value of involvement, as well as the effects of persistence,” she said. “I think it is so important for high school students across the state — as well as across the nation — to get involved in civics.”
In previous years, Citizen Advocacy Center has hosted dynamic speakers showcasing other First Amendment freedoms. These include Mary Beth Tinker, free-speech advocate and plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court student free-speech case, and Jessica Ahlquist, freedom-of-religion advocate and plaintiff in a successful lawsuit challenging her high school’s endorsement of religion.
The Citizen Advocacy Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community-based legal organization dedicated to building democracy for the 21st century by increasing the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance. For more information, visit www.CitizenAdvocacyCenter.org or call 630-833-4080.
For more information, contact
Maryam Judar, executive director Citizen Advocacy Center
(630) 833-4083 (office)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – STALE AFTER THURSDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2015
Last Call for School, Local Candidates is ThursdayMany Seats Still Available
No candidates have filed for 5% of the seats on city councils, village, school, park, library, and fire boards in DuPage County, and for another 58% of those seats, there are candidates with no opposition, but there is still time to register as a write-in candidate, says the Citizen Advocacy Center.
“Under Illinois law, any write-in votes cast in the April 7 election are ignored unless the candidate has first registered as a write-in candidate for that office,” said Maryam Judar, executive director of the non-profit civic group that assists citizens in dealing with local government. “The deadline is this Thursday,” she added.
To register as a write-in candidate, a form available at the DuPage Election Commission, 421 County Farm Rd. in Wheaton must be filed with that office before 4:30 p.m. on February 5.
Prospective write-in candidates are welcome to contact the Citizen Advocacy Center at (630) 833-4083) for more information.
Write-ins can register until Thursday February 5 for any office on the ballot, whether there are already filed candidates or not.
No Candidates At All
These offices have at least one seat open but no filed candidates running for it, so the winner will be someone who has filed as a write-in candidate:
Board of Education Member
Fenton HS-100, Westmont U-201, Bensonville G-2, Roselle G-12 (2 openings), Bloomingdale G-13, Winfield G-34.
Clarendon Hills (2 openings), Fountaindale, Indian Prairie, Lisle (2 openings), Poplar Creek, Roselle, Winfield (2 openings).
Park District Commissioner
Hanover Park, Pick Subdivision, Wheaton.
Candidates with No Opposition
These city, village, and other offices have some candidates with no competition, but write-in candidates can still register until Thursday February 5.
City Mayor / Village President
Carol Stream, Clarendon Hills, Wayne, Wheaton, Wood Dale.
City or Village Clerk
Clarendon Hills, Darien, Oak Brook, Wood Dale.
Darien, Wood Dale.
City Alderman / Village Trustee
Addison, Aurora, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Darien, Elmhurst, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Hinsdale, Itasca, Lemont, Lombard, Oakbrook Terrace, Roselle, St. Charles, Warrenville, Wayne, West Chicago, Westmont, Willowbrook, Wood Dale.
Board of Education Member
U-201, U-203, HS-94, HS-100, HS-210, G-2, G-4, G-7, G-12, G-13, G-15, G-16, G-20, G-33, G-34, G-48, G-53, G-58, G-61, G-62, G-63, G-66, G-89, G-93, G-180.
Bloomingdale, Brookeridge, Burr Ridge, Butterfield, Carol Stream, Darien, Downers Grove, Glen Elley Countryside, Golfview Hills, Itasca, Lemont, Lisle, Lombard, Medinah, Oakbrook Terrace, Roselle, Tri-State, Wards Creek, Warrenville, Winfield, Wood Dale, York Center.
Addision, Bartlett, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Glen Ellyn, Glenside, Hinsdale, Itasca, Lemont, Villa Park, Warrenville, West Chicago, Westmont, Woodridge, Wood Dale.
Fire District Trustee
Addison, Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Darien-Woodridge, Glenside, Itasca, Lemont, Pleasantview, Tri-State, Wood Dale.
There is still time to become a candidate for local office!
The filing deadline for the April 7, 2015 local elections for city, village, school, park, fire, and library boards is December 22, 2014.
To get started download the Candidate's Guide.
Feel free to contact us if you have questions.
Courtesy of David Morrison at Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR)
Many local election authorities provide sample ballots through their websites -- plug in your address and find out which exact offices and candidates will be on the ballot when you vote and also where your polling place is. This year there's a US Senate seat on the ballot in addition to the statewide executive offices, and it's also the first election in Cook County after Board of Commissioner boundaries were re-drawn following the 2010 Census. In that instance, the official who represented you for years may no longer be in the same district as you. For this reason alone, it would be a good idea to find out what districts you live in and who you will be asked to choose between when you go to vote in the partisan primaries next week.
Many local election authorities have website that can tell you where you go to vote. And if you're not yet registered to vote, there is still a tiny window for you to get registered ahead of the primary -- "Grace Period" registration continues into next week, but only at locations designated by local election authorities. Their websites can tell you where to go. If you register during the Grace Period, you might be requried to vote at the same time, so be prepared.
Don't forget, also, that a change in the law allows 17-year-olds to register and vote in the Primary election if they will be 18 years old by the date of the November General (this year, it's on November 4). If you're the parent of a high school student, this may be their first opportunity to participate in our civic life by voting.
If you live in the City of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Elections website is here:
If you live in suburban Cook County, the Cook County Board of Elections website is here:
and if you live in DuPage County, that website is here:
If you live somewhere else in Illinois, the State Board of Elections has a list of all 110 local election authorities in the state, together with their websites (if they have one). Not all offer sample ballots, but many do. Have a look and good luck!
Candidates seeking nomination for judicial seats will also be on the primary ballot. There are almost 200 candidates seeking nomination for over two dozen judicial seats, and that's in Cook County alone. If you want help figuring out who these people are, I recommend the Chicago Bar Alliance, which is a group of bar groups, including the Illinois State Bar Assn, the Chicago Bar Assn, the Chicago Council of Lawyers, and maybe a dozen other lawyers groups that evaluate judicial candidates throughout Cook County. Those evaluations are all available in a simple grid through this website: http://www.voteforjudges.org. For judicial evaluations in the rest of the state, I don't know of any one site that aggregates multiple judicial evaluations, but the Illinois State Bar Association is the most thorough, and their website is on-line at http://www.isba.org/judicialevaluations/
Good luck with your research, and happy voting!
Since the 2010 Census, and through Illinois’ 2011 redistricting process and 2012 elections, the Citizen Advocacy Center has been an integral member of a coalition that is seeking to strengthen ties among political reform and civil rights organizations. Our latest collaboration involves advocating for Illinois to implement on-line voter registration in order to maximize opportunities for eligible voters to participate in elections.
Illinois recently passed HB 2418, which is a bill that involved many changes to the Illinois Election Code. One component was the approval of the implementation of an on-line voter registration system. The Citizen Advocacy Center, along with our coalition partners recently drafted a communication to the State Board of Elections highlighting criteria that we collectively believe will be important for general implementation and in the rulemaking process.
Read the complete text of the coalition's HB2418 Rulemaking & Implementation Recommendations
and visit our Monitoring Government Activity page.