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Want to vote in the presidential primary? Illinois and Missouri registration deadlines loom

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Those headed to the polls in St. Louis in 2012 will be voting in an election run by a different St. Louis Board of Elections. Three new members were named today by Gov. Jay Nixon. (via Flickr/ Daniel Morrison)

Voter registration deadlines are approaching for area residents hoping to cast a ballot in their presidential primaries. Official registration closes on today in Illinois, and on Wednesday in Missouri.

Both states hold their presidential primary on March 15, and Illinois will hold its general primary election that same day. (Missouri's general primary election is in August.)

Mary Wheeler-Jones, Democratic director of the St. Louis City Board of Election Commissioners, said there are a number of ways to register in Missouri. They include by mail, which must be postmarked by Wednesday and in person. The latter can be done at local election, Department of Motor Vehicle, and Social Security offices as well as public libraries.

Missourians can also register online through the Secretary of State’s website. Jones highlighted the ease of online registration.

“I don’t think there should be any excuse for somebody to say they are not registered, especially because you can do it on a website now,” she said.

While Missouri’s Wednesday deadline is absolute, Illinois residents get a grace period. Following Tuesday’s deadline is the beginning of “grace period” registration, which runs up to and through Election Day and requires two forms of identification to be completed.

The grace period allows residents to register to vote following the official deadline, but also mandates that those voters cast their ballot at that same time they register.

Turnout hard to predict, officials say

Election officials say it’s a challenge to predict turnout for next month’s election. Thomas Holbrook, St. Clair County Clerk, said it’s “way too early to predict voter turnout” but expects a moderate turnout if the presidential primaries remain competitive.

“Normally [turnout] is very low in a primary because we have almost no contested races. In the case of the president, if it is still up in the air, I expect we will have a pretty large turnout for that, which would mean maybe 30 to 40 percent of our people might vote,” Holbrook said.

Wheeler-Jones said it seems Missouri residents are following the election and registering, but she’s not sure it will ultimately bring more voters out to the polls on March 15.  

“I believe there has been an escalation in registration throughout state because everybody’s been keeping up with the debates and the things going on in New Hampshire and Iowa. I really don’t know if that will make a difference or not.”