Weekly Featured Profile – David Orr
David Orr has been Cook County Clerk since 1991. He is the chief election authority for suburban Cook County, Illinois, the third largest election jurisdiction in the United States.
As president of the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks, and a member of the Board of Advisors to the Election Assistance Commission – he has played pivotal roles in helping to shape federal and state election reforms.
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.
He has been a regular at the annual Chicago Democratic Socialists of America organized Eugene V. Debs – Norman Thomas – Michael Harrington Dinner since the 1980s.
The Chicago Democratic Socialists of America PAC endorsed four candidates in the 1990 Democratic primary election, two of whom won: Miguel del Valle won reelection as the Democratic candidate to the State Senate from the 4th Senate District (he is now Chicago City Clerk) and David Orr won the Democratic nomination for County Clerk.
Democratic Socialists of America member Monty Tarbox, also served on Orr’s staff during the 1980s.
In the 1990s, Orr was an early supporter of Soviet front activist Alice Palmer in her bid for U.S. Congress.