As Cook County Clerk, David Orr serves as the chief election authority in the third largest election jurisdiction in the country and has found innovative ways to reform how government works and to make his office run more efficiently.
A progressive voice in Chicago politics for 30 years, Orr led the fight to implement the motor voter law in Illinois, which has made it easier and more convenient for people to sign up to vote. Since taking office in 1991, Orr has returned $24 million in unspent budget appropriations to the county.
Orr – who served as president of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks (NACRC), and a member of the Board of Advisors to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) – has played pivotal roles in helping to shape federal and state election reforms.
Following the 2000 presidential election, Orr successfully fought for the rights of Cook County voters to use error-detection technology in future elections that alerts them to mistakes and gives them a “second chance” to make changes or corrections.
Orr promoted passage of a statewide law that allows senior high school students to serve as election judges, part of the Clerk’s Teen Democracy Program, and has used new technology to layout the county’s multiple ballot formats in house, which saves about $1 million every year. He also drafted legislation to merge off-year school board and municipal elections, resulting in a statewide savings of $7.5 million every other year in election costs.
In an effort to increase voter turnout and awareness, Orr established an award-winning interactive voter website,www.voterinfonet.com, and has earned national recognition for launching voter education campaigns and redesigning polling place materials aimed at simplifying the voting process.
In 1996, Orr successfully spearheaded the legal fight to fully implement the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the motor voter law. Overcoming stiff partisan opposition, Orr argued that prohibiting voters who registered under NVRA from participating in state and local elections violated constitutional rights and threatened to disenfranchise voters. Just prior to the November 1996 presidential election, a federal appellate court judge agreed with Orr and refused to overturn a lower-court’s decision.
The motor-voter legislation combined with Orr’s ambitious and creative efforts to register new voters at grocery stores, sporting events, schools and summer fairs, has resulted in a record number of voters in Illinois. Since taking office in 1990, more than 1 million new voters have been added to the county voting rolls.
Also, Orr led the fight for the new early voting legislation, which will allow people to vote over a 20-day period prior to an election without having to provide a reason or excuse.
The early voting legislation was part of a 2005 bill that also allows people who changed their names to vote, and allows election judges time off from work on Election Day without having to take a vacation day.
Orr, a former Chicago alderman, served as vice mayor under Mayor Harold Washington. Following Washington ’s death in 1987, Orr took over as mayor and was recognized for his strong and sensible leadership during one the most tumultuous periods in Chicago ’s political history.
Before embarking on a career in public service, Orr worked as an assistant professor of History and Urban Affairs at Mundelein College inChicago . He received his undergraduate degree from Simpson College inIowa and a Master’s Degree in American studies from Case WesternUniversity in Cleveland .
Orr lives in Chicago ’s Rogers Park neighborhood with his four children and wife, Loretta, a nurse at Cook County Hospital . In his spare time, he coaches basketball and baseball.