Signing up to vote in Illinois might get easier
July 8, 2017

A revised Automatic Voter Registration bill will make it easier for Illinois citizens to sign up to vote. (Photo courtesy office of Sen. Ira Silverstein)

Gov. Bruce Rauner indicates he will sign a newly revised Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) bill but has not said when he will do it.

The measure would register eligible voters at Secretary of State’s offices automatically when they apply for driver’s licenses, permits, and identification cards. Several other State agencies that can verify voter information accurately also would be able to register voters.

People also will be allowed to opt out if they do not want to register
to vote.

“We must protect the sanctity of our election process, and we thank the bill sponsors and stakeholders who worked with us on this piece of legislation,” Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said. Although she said Rauner planned to sign the measure, she was unable to say when.

Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year, saying he was concerned about the potential for vote fraud and conflicts with federal law. A veto override failed by four votes in the House after passing the Senate.

The Illinois State Legislature on May 31 gave final agreements to the revised bill. Passage in both the House and Senate was unanimous.

In addition to registering voters at Department of Motor Vehicles facilities operated by the Secretary of State’s office, the bill would expand the registration system to allow individuals to register to vote whenever they conduct business or interact with the State’s Department of Human Services, Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Department of Employment Security, and Department on Aging.

The opt-out provision is new.

Current Illinois voter registration is “opt in,” with employees at these sites asking citizens seeking services if they would like to register to vote or update voter registration rather than having their updated information automatically shared for voter registration purposes.

State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin (D-10th) was among the bill’s sponsors. “Making voting easy and straightforward for all citizens in Illinois is critically important for ensuring we have strong civic engagement in our state and national politics,” she said. The bill “erases one of the biggest barriers for busy, hardworking families in my community. All people in Illinois deserve the opportunity to fully express their right to shape our democracy.

This is one more victory on the path to ensuring all Illinoisans have an unimpeded ability to participate in our democracy.”

“It is great for Illinois,” said Little Village State Rep. Sylvana Tabares (D-21st). “I want to make it easier for people to vote. Everyone should have a voice.”

A coalition of groups that formed Just Democracy Illinois said in a statement it thanked Rauner for his promise to sign the bill. It urged signing without delay to give agencies enough time to implement the bill before the next election.

Cook County Clerk David Orr also expressed his thanks to the lawmakers. He has been active in Just Democracy. Others involved in the group include AARP, the Better Government Association, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause, the NAACP, and several unions.

Tabares said Illinois would be the ninth state to implement AVR.

— Susan S. Stevens