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Cook County Acknowledges Backlog As Many Voters Get Message That System Can't Verify Their Registration

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thousands of Cook County voters are going online to check their voter registration status, only to get an unsettling message – the system can't verify their registration.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, election officials acknowledge a backlog. And currently, that backlog is almost 30,000 voters whose registration is in limbo.

But election officials said those voters should not panic.

An unprecedented number of voters this year have logged onto the Cook County Clerk's website to register to vote in this election. And at least a dozen of them have reached out to us recently – with one big concern.

When they go check their status, they get a message stating, "Could not be resolved." Cook County Deputy Elections Clerk Edmund Michalowski blames a system backlog.

"As of Friday, there were 50,000a applications in queue, and we've reduced that number to about 28,000 today," Michalowski said. "And we're fully confident that by his weekend, the number will be zero."

Michalowski blames an election system switch for part of the problem. It was planned for last January, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed it down – and then a state delay slowed online voter registration processing down even further.

"Which took a four, five-day process to about three weeks, which created in that gap a period when no registrations could get done," Michalowski said.

But Michalowski and state Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said not to panic. Even though the online voter registration deadline is Sunday, at midnight, those waiting for online registration verification should be fine.

"If you go through the process by October 18, you will be registered," Dietrich said.

He said that will be the case even if a registration isn't processed until after Oct. 18, which is this coming Sunday. And voter demand statewide is at its highest level ever.

"We'll have the most registered voters for this election that we've ever had," Dietrich said.

Cook County election officials expect a voter registration surge, electronically, as the online deadline approaches. If you want to register to vote, and you don't do so by the end of the day – Sunday – you can still register in person.

As to elsewhere in Illinois, we have heard of some cases of people having problems with their registrations in some downstate counties. But Dietrich said he has not heard of any major problems throughout the state or with the state's system.

Cook County is by far the most populous county in the state, which likely contributed to the issue.

This story was produced, in part, with the help of journalists at Electionland, a project from the non-profit news organization, ProPublica. If you are having trouble voting, Electionland wants to hear from you.

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