Illinois is a leader in expanding voter access

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State Sen. Don Harmon & Cook County Clerk David Orr

Around the country, voter suppression battles are raging. But here at home, Illinois is leading the charge for voter rights and expanding ballot access. We're guided by a simple concept: Our democracy is always stronger when more people participate.

With the Nov. 4 election just weeks away, here's a look at some of the ways we've improved our democracy: 

For the first time, Illinoisans registered to vote online. When the deadline rolled around at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 7, more than 30,000 people had registered online — both new voters and voters taking advantage of this more convenient way to update their voting information. Plus, online voter registration saves money. It costs 3 cents to process an online registration as opposed to 83 cents for a paper application.

Missed the Oct. 7 registration deadline? That's OK. Grace period registration runs through Nov. 3 at select locations, and it will now be offered during early voting at all suburban Cook County sites. Illinoisans will also have the opportunity to register and cast their vote on Election Day. While this pilot Election Day registration will not be available in every precinct, there are 18 designated sites in suburban Cook County, including Oak Park Village Hall. 

Early Voting starts Monday, Oct. 20. It's become so popular we've extended it by one day to the Sunday before the election. During the second week of early voting, Oct. 27-31, many sites will stay open until 7 p.m., including Oak Park Village Hall, so people can cast their ballots after work.

Getting the next generation involved is also our mission. It's now easier for college students to vote with the creation of in-person absentee voting centers on the campuses of certain large public universities (locations at And earlier this year, more than 7,000 eligible 17-year-olds registered to vote in Cook County for the first time. Those teenagers will be 18 by Nov. 4 — and ready to participate in their first general election.

We also changed provisional voting rules last year so that ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct may still be counted in the correct precinct.

Finally, the General Assembly placed on the Nov. 4 ballot a proposed constitutional amendment designed to prevent the kind of voter-suppression laws we're seeing in other states. The "Right-to-Vote Amendment" would prohibit enactment of any law in Illinois that would disproportionately affect the rights of eligible Illinois citizens to vote based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, sex, sexual orientation or income.

Republicans sometimes say expanding voter access is just a way to get more Democrats to the polls, on the theory that those new voters are more likely to cast ballots for Democrats. But during debate on the Right-to-Vote Amendment in the Illinois Senate, GOP Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine lauded the measure as recognizing "the fundamental, quintessentially American concept of the right to vote."

Democracy only works if enough of us participate, exercising our right to vote, for which so much has been sacrificed from the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement through today's struggle against voter suppression. Illinois' leadership on voting rights means voters in our state can make their voices heard more easily than ever before.

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, is Illinois Senate President Pro Tempore. He has sponsored several new election reform laws, including online voter registration and same-day registration. Cook County Clerk David Orr led the fight for early voting and teen election judges and supported the recent measures for expanding voter access.

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Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 1:06 PM

OPT, you summed up aptly how ludicrous their entire argument is regarding not being able to obtain ID. They'd have more credence if they were saying the TSA, Banks, Govt, and everything else that required an ID were also racist. Of course, these same folks will say a background check and ID is needed for me to exercise my 2nd amendment right, but requiring the same for voting is suppression.


Posted: October 21st, 2014 11:27 AM

@Unf-You bring up a good point. Harmon is so intent on "getting the next generation involved" yet insists on taxing that "next generation" at rates that far exceed the previous generations. He wants their vote, but also wants them to foot the bill for all his party's mistakes over the decades. Sounds pretty disingenuous if you ask me. Can our dear Senator Harmon not speak in half-truths for once?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 11:22 AM

@ Questionable - your spellchecker may have revealed a often ignored truth! You bet our government is stronger when people in uniform get to have their votes counted! Disallowing military ballots is he most insulting form of voter suppression and is a oft used tool in the DNC toolbox. Ask the new Ebola Czar how he tried to use in in Gore V Bush Florida challenge.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 10:32 AM

"Who picks up their social security check? It's either mailed or direct deposited." Social Security earned from years of work with no ID? Benefits applied for with no ID? Mailed to the home they bought or leased with no ID? Deposited into the account they opened with no ID? Mose, at this point I don't even think you believe what you're saying.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 10:18 AM

Questionable, we are a Republic, not a Democracy. This distinction is obviously lost on some low info voters (and their representatives). A Democracy is five wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner.

Questionable from Oak Park  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 10:07 AM

From the editorial: "Our democracy is always stronger when more people participate." Is this necessarily a true statement? Is our democracy made really stronger when more uniformed people vote?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 6:39 AM

@ Mose - If you are still here - My claim about gun confiscation in Oak Park was to repeat a statement by a 30 year retired Oak Park police officer who made the claim and also said that the records were no longer available. As I remember.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 6:35 AM

@ Mose - before you go - you claimed that national GOP leaders claimed that voter ID would benefit the Republicans yet when pressed you quote two local chairmen who, you claim, said exactly the opposite that the benefit would go to the Democrats. Common core math I assume


Posted: October 21st, 2014 2:57 AM

Mose - Does that Social Security check miraculously appear in one's mailbox or direct deposit these days or do you have to provide ID's & other required docs first. Same for just about everything else of importance in one's life if you want to maintain a civil society. Turzai & Greer probably failed to point out that seniors, students, the rural & the poor were descriminated against when all ticket holders were to present their ID's at the 2008 Obama Grant Park rally. Whatever it takes to 'win'.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 12:44 AM

Unlike you, Ray. I'm willing to back it up. Remember when you claimed to know of recent instances of Oak Park Police illegally seizing firearms? That was totally false and you took your usual powder when challenged on the facts. Here goes! Pennsylvannia House Majority leader Turzai calls voter id laws a way to suppress the vote for democrats. Florida GOP chairman Greer told the Palm Beach Post the same thing. I used to enjoy debating conservatives but have no time for your GOPTea nonsense. Adios

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 21st, 2014 12:07 AM

@ Mose - calling your bluff! Exactly who in the Republican leadership made such a stupid statement, when and where? You made the statement - now back it up with some sort of documentation. I do not want to hear that some talking head at MSNBC said he thought that was what was said. References, links and direct quotes or just admit you have been listening to Wasserman-Schultz.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 11:44 PM

Stunning what you don't know, WS. Who picks up their social security check? It's either mailed or direct deposited. Many seniors do not have a photo ID. Obtaining a birth certificate can be a complicated process requiring considerable time, transporatation costs and service fees. Those are punitive expenses for people of limited means. Voter supression is real and GOP leadership across the country have admitted it will help discourage voting by seniors, students, rural residents and the poor


Posted: October 20th, 2014 9:49 PM

All this effort by Harmon and friends to ensure that "Getting the next generation involved is also our mission" to vote, but in the meantime, where's his concerns and efforts about the crime, murder, and deplorable educational opportunities/outcomes in Chicago/other towns in Illinois? My opinion? All that Harmon & company care about is getting elected, power and/or rich (Madigan ain't poor - Harmon's friend has the trifecta here!) - and this helps them do that. And the OP lemmings will vote Dem!

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 9:30 PM

@ Winter - Holy Cow we agree 100% - I would have bet that that would not happen. Early voting - not sure how to solve that one. Orr's office and our laptops,knows who got ballots and who returned them. If you early voted and show up to vote we can tell from the laptop. If you got a ballot and didn't return it we know that as well. Bring the ballot with you and you get to vote. Left it at home you go provisional and you can argue with downtown. I assume that both parties open and count those early votes. If not the Republicans need to find new work.

Winter Skye from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 8:32 PM

@Mose: PUL-eeze! What senior or person using social services doesn't have at least a State ID? Those are required to pick up Social Security checks and other assistance. I do think that the price of $20 is utterly appalling. It was $4 for a long time. If a person is low-income it should definitely be waived. I suspect that somehow these people are getting IDs or else they would never be able to obtain and cash their checks. I am highly suspicious of "early" voting. Too easy to throw votes in the garbage with election judges nowhere to be found. Who is keeping (and counting) these votes? Remember what Stalin said about it... The cold, hard truth is that in IL the Black community had a very low turnout, even in a Presidential year (2012). There was no voter suppression and it still didn't mean that they were motivated as a voting bloc to make their presence felt. Change starts from within, no matter what we are talking about. Just as the biggest threat to young, Black males in the USA is not White racist cops, the biggest hindrance to BP voting is not voter ID laws but apathy.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 8:27 PM

@ Mose - if the precinct captains who want your vote can't help get the ID - you don't have much of an operation. This whole argument about poor people is bogus - they show ID to get food stamps, welfare checks, cash checks and on and on.. Most states provide free ID's for those who ask.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 8:14 PM

It's not simply minorities at risk of being excluded from the electoral process. Obtaining a state issued photo id requires a birth certificate and other approved documentation. That can be a real hardship for seniors, rural residents and poor people. In addition it's an added expense for those living on a tight budget. Ideally states that are demanding picture proof in order to cast a ballot could have made an effort to assist those who may encounter difficulty and provide the id at no cost.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 5:52 PM

I honestly rarely encounter overt prejudice in my day-to-day life, but there's something about having white politicians trying to make voting simple enough that even my people can do it that really gets my back up. Mr. Harmon, if you expect your kids to be able to obtain an ID, please have the courtesy to expect my kids to be able to obtain an ID. Your kids aren't all that much better than mine. And Carol, Mr. Harmon can manage to be a racially condescending ass without your fawning help.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 5:51 PM

Ray, I'll go with John Boehner's assessment that some of the dumbest people in America are members of Congress. She's not seeking re-election but Michele Bachmann helped prove his point with goofy claims like carbon dioxide was a harmless gas, the HPV vaccine caused mental retardation. Terry Schavio was brain dead but healthy and that the Lion King was gay propaganda.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 5:32 PM

@ Carol - I would greet you on Nov 4 if you weren't hiding behind a first name only. You do have me at a disadvantage! If your voter file is in order absolutely no one will demand a voter ID. And there will be no voter suppression. Take your DNC talking points drivel elsewhere!


Posted: October 20th, 2014 4:44 PM

These comments are exactly why Sen. Harmon's efforts are so appreciated. The judgement as to just who is smart enough to vote from Uncommon Sense (a first class db, if there ever was one) proves the point. And Mr. Simpson, sir, you are simply an idiot. Can't wait to see you on election day in the 17th precinct. Make sure you ask me for my ID. Let's see what happens.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 3:59 PM

@ Mose - how can any other congressional district top the guy we keep sending back to Washington ( D to the second power Danny Davis)? Rep Jackson-Lee has a staff turnover double any one else.


Posted: October 20th, 2014 3:30 PM

Is it any wonder - Dumb and dumber - no surprise they elected a guy who thought he had campaigned in 57 States - I wonder how many more he thought he had to visit.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 2:39 PM

I don't think anyone has topped Hank Johnson (D - GA). Recall this fool thought the island of Guam might capsize if too many people were on the island? Better yet, google his talk and apology about Midgets vs Giants for a real laugh.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 2:12 PM

Shelia Jackson Lee may not be the brightest member if Congress but has been cited as one of the meanest. The real dunce of the House must be Louie Gohmert. The nonsense that flows out of that man's mouth is legendary. Remember his warning about terror babies?


Posted: October 20th, 2014 2:12 PM

"Around the country, voter suppression battles are raging" Why are our county and state reps so concerned about what's happening outside their jurisdictions? They should be focusing on the state and county debt. Why do they chose this one non-battle to point out how IL compares to anyone else? A more accurate opener would be "Around the country, states are balancing their budgets without raising taxes on their working citizens." I'd love to read that article, dear Senator.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 1:39 PM

@ Uncommon - we have members of congress who are not sure what the three branches are and if they are members of one of them. They sure don't understand the term "COEQUAL" Ask Rep Jackson-Lee and she might answer " Larry, Curly and Moe"

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 1:32 PM

With the populace getting dumber by the day, the last thing we should be doing is expanding voter access. Do we really want people who can't name the three branches of government voting?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 1:03 PM

@ OP Transplant - If voting is a right rather than a privilege why do we need any amendment to clarify that right. Rights are rights and you only lose them by your own illegal actions. Those rights are reserved for legal citizens and should not be given away lick trick-or-treat candy.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 12:53 PM

@Uncommon - whoa - Carol just told us that it was the Tea Party GOP Traitors that were doing the enslaving- are we in the middle of a perception problem?

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 12:38 PM

What kills me is that black folks actually accept an argument from their patronizing liberal slave masters that we are too stupid to know how to obtain valid ID.


Posted: October 20th, 2014 12:27 PM

You should only be allowed to vote on spending items if you pay taxes. $1 of tax equals 1 vote. You can vote on all the "feel good" stuff you want for free, but to vote on something that spends other people's money, you should have skin in the game. People in public unions also should not be allowed to vote given the inherent conflict of interest . Wouldn't we all love to vote our boss into office?

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 12:17 PM

If nothing else, you have to have a good laugh at the hubris of the name "Right-to-Vote Amendment". Seems like I've been voting for a long damn time without this amendment, despite my skin color, and if a law were passed requiring me to show ID, I'd show it. Still, it's nice to know white politicians are looking out for me, with my ignorant ways and all.


Posted: October 20th, 2014 12:01 PM

Poor Carol is all confused because everything is upside down and ass backwards while she thinks her party is moving her forward the Alinsky rules for radicals way- relentless agitation disrupting society, claiming opponents relentlessly evil, never focus on 1 issue to create chaos, taunt opponents as dangerous enemies of the establishment - keeping the country polarized & disoriented is the goal & Carol is all in.


Posted: October 20th, 2014 10:09 AM

Whenever a dem run state wants more people to vote--- it means more Dems.. what else is new! In the meantime other states require voter ID.. like Texas.. lets all move!


Posted: October 20th, 2014 9:48 AM

carol is being sarcastic.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 20th, 2014 9:07 AM

@ Carol This state is the worst run in all 50 and you claim it is corrupt tea party GOP fault? It is your "go along "with the jack ass party that has caused most of our problems. You are too ignorant to see that our neighbor states, run by conservative GOP governors are doing quite well and taking jobs and income from our cesspool of union political patronage policies.


Posted: October 20th, 2014 8:33 AM

Bravo Sen. Harmon and Clerk Orr for taking real action to keep our elections open and free. Continue your fight against the tea party GOP traitors who want to enslave this state and country with their vile policies. Fight evil at their doorstep.


Posted: October 19th, 2014 10:48 PM

Another Harmon smokescreen. So IL is "leading the charge" in a rigged contest where one party draws the maps then refuses term limits. How strong is our democracy when we're billions of dollars in debt? Senator Harmon, please go back in your shell until after your layup of an election and rear your head only when you have a solution for our crumbling state that doesn't involve taxing working people more.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 8:51 PM

That's been my expereince too, Ray. The new system should help speed up the process. I hope voters will read the informational post card sent out by David Orr's office. Some poling places have been relocated. It will be a lot easier this election to help out those who aren't sure where to go to vote. Always an interesting day serving as an election judge.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 8:19 PM

@Mose - actually - NONE! Remember these are my neighbors and I bet I know almost all of them. The new system will speed up the closing out of the polls - you will not see much difference except you will be required to sign in a different way. One hell of a lot of labels and the silicone release sheets wind up everywhere. The security is still there and I am amazed when people who are ignorant of the system claim voter fraud. Interesting observation - New neighbors who are voting in our precinct always seem to have a photo ID in hand. Those ID's are only required if you have been listed as "Inactive" If you have the ID there is no sweat - no ID you vote "Provisional" and you can fight it out downtown. We had one irate voter in the primaries who was incensed that we would not give him an "Independent" ballot. We told him we had 3 types of ballots - republican - Democrat and Green and we had no idea where we would get an independent ballot. Orr's office told him the same thing when he called. He stormed out mumbling about suppression. Voter fraud is not something we saw and if we did we are instructed to allow them to vote provisional and fight their case downtown. If there are not a mix of R & D judges and one party has all 5 judges ( 2 wearing the wrong party badge) then hanky panky could happen. Remember we are dealing with our neighbors and we like to keep the peace!

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 7:20 PM

Please share some experiences as a local election judge, Ray. How many instances of voter fraud have you encountered in the three years you've served and what was the response received if you reported a crime to State's Attorney officials? Do you expect the new procedures for the upcoming election to result in an easier process for judges and voters? The computerized records should produce an easier way to help direct people to their proper polling place and reduce paper waste. I like it!

John Murtagh from OP  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 6:49 PM

Jame - thanks for all your gracious comments. It really fun having a discussion with you.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 5:51 PM

@ James - check your sources - I have been a judge for 3 years and I serve in the 17th. I accept your apology even if you don't offer it!


Posted: October 19th, 2014 5:45 PM

James do yourself a favor- the next time you respond do it in a gender neutral tone. Quite a rant there James but typical from a 'progressive' socialist who wants to shut down free speech when the truth hurts. Voter fraud, illegal voting, illegal aliens, porous borders, corrupt lifer politicians, dictatorship instead of Presidential leadership, US beheading, new life threatening diseases - we are officially of 3rd world country status. Is this 'progressive' enough for you James?

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 5:43 PM

This week's edition of The Reader takes a look at both candidates for governor. Rauner it seems is not the political reformer claiming to be. He's an insider! His current wife is featured in TV ads that seem are airing every 15 seconds where she bemoans the negative nature of campaigns but fails to mention the cheap shots and bogus claims her hubby is making. Rauner won't provide much in the way of details just digs at the very political system and the pols he has worked with for years.


Posted: October 19th, 2014 5:41 PM

Ray-I am an election judge and have been for years, JBM is not, and neither are you, at least not in Oak Park.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 19th, 2014 4:38 PM

@ James and JBM better yet become an election judge and see first hand how the system works. You will be far less critical of a system you don't understand. Criticisms come easy solutions always piss someone off!


Posted: October 19th, 2014 3:12 PM

@JBM--so making it easier for people to vote is the work of a political hack? Discrimination? Who is being discriminated against by allowing early voting and registration? Although entitled to an opinion, yours makes no sense. Clerk Orr and Harmon have been consistent in their efforts to open polls to all of our citizens. If you do not like the policy, get up off the couch and run for something. Otherwise, your opinion is as useful and as a sixth toe.


Posted: October 19th, 2014 2:37 PM

@Casey--yeah I did read the ST (don't assume all are as challenged as yourself). Was wondering, though, whether you were aware of the strong-armed threats to Mr. McKinney (reporter) which preceded the endorsement of the ST investor, er Mr. Rauner. Not very convincing endorsement if it was paid for, is it? Anyone voting for Rauner based on that is endorsement morally corrupt ab initio.


Posted: October 19th, 2014 2:32 PM

Ah, rj (clearly a reference to Republican Jack***) has come out of the woodwork. Let's just say we agree to disagree on who does damage to this state and country. You and your ilk have quite a bit of blood on your hands, right? Instead of sitting behind a key board and pounding out whatever you're pounding out on this blog, why not register people to vote, improve your community and add quality to the discussion. Being a overblown, egomaniacal sycophant is no way to go through life, son.


Posted: October 19th, 2014 6:41 AM

James- You should try to read sometime Even the Sun Times is fed up!


Posted: October 19th, 2014 1:49 AM

Yes James - Republicans want to pass voter ID laws and yes Republicans want to suppress all voter fraud- seems the only way Democrats can win. One example of an Ohio woman poll worker voted 6x's for Obama - 3x's for her comatose relative. Also admitted she voted illegally in 2008, 2011 & 2012. Illegal voting, illegal aliens, dead voters, corrupt politicians - and you call this 'progressive'. People like you are not only destroying IL but this entire country.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2014 11:48 PM

Hi James - I am fully aware of the crap the Republicans have done to try and keep Blacks from voting. There actions are the work I expect from political hacks.. At the same time, I have no use for elected officials using discrimination and democracy spin as their ways to get votes in Cook County. I think that both Harmon and Orr are political hacks.


Posted: October 18th, 2014 10:25 PM

JBM--you are not quite all there, are you? The GOP, from Arizona to Florida, have been actively suppressing the vote of young and minority populations. Do you people read? As for the efforts of Sen.. Harmon and Clerk Orr, I say bravo. Keep up the good work representing a truly progressive community.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 18th, 2014 12:46 PM

Harmon and Orr should be nominated for "Hypocrites of the year for their lead statement in this post. The quote below is simply an election ploy directed at the Black vote. "But here at home, Illinois is leading the charge for voter rights and expanding ballot access. We're guided by a simple concept: Our democracy is always stronger when more people participate." All races and creeds should be outraged by Harmon and Orr's patronizing.


Posted: October 18th, 2014 10:34 AM

Was this column a joke? Does this politician live in a different state- can he read a newspaper? Did he flunk math? Illinois voters deserve what they get!


Posted: October 18th, 2014 10:08 AM

Hey Don- We're broke! You're progressive tax proposal will not help since we are already second in the nation for people fleeing their State, but hey we're #1 in unfunded pension liability and still can't pay our past and current bills! I would argue making it easier to vote is not the solution since we have seen these results already! Maybe the current leadership should just move aside since they have time and time again set Illinois up as the most patheticallycorrupt run State in the Country


Posted: October 18th, 2014 8:13 AM

Dear Senator Harmon: Democracy will only work if we take away redistricting from politicians and unfortunately we are left no other alternative but to set term limits on the these elected officials- you included since Madigan, Quinn, Cullerton continue to run this State into the wall and lets not leave out Durbin who has never spoke of the sorry state of affairs in Illinois is in, but thank God you all will continue to save us from the evil Republicans and that Tea party! Gods Speed!


Posted: October 17th, 2014 2:14 PM

Gov. Quinn won 2 of Illinois 102 counties in the last election - Cook and another downstate. Imagine that for stealing an election. $50 M slush funds, phantom non-binding referendums, same day voting (for one election only, this one), pension reforms that are guaranteed to be rejected by the courts (which was planned). Seriously, how do people sit back and just take it and vote for this party & guy? Of course Don Harmon is unopposed because the Green Party candidate was removed by the BOE.

Ted Torgerson from Arlington Heights  

Posted: October 17th, 2014 10:24 AM

for non-cook County residents, expanding voter access is a euphemism for lots of dead people voting Democrat.


Posted: October 16th, 2014 11:14 AM

Opined the BGA, "Don Harmon's street cred as a "reformer" or progressive has to be questioned. Judged through a larger prism, Don Harmon, the state senator who represents Oak Park, isn't challenging the status quo. He is the status quo." (Huffington Post, 12-5-12).

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