Automatic voter registration: IL Senate bill passes the IL House


U.S. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin endorses Automatic Voter Registration while standing with Chicago Votes leaders

Cutting the complexity and cost of voter registration in Illinois will be a reality if yesterday's passage of Illinois Senate SB250 in the Illinois House is not vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner. 

This legislation reforms current registration laws so that whenever an eligible Illinois resident receives services at a designated state agency such as Drivers Services. He or she will be automatically registered to vote in the local jurisdiction unless they opt out. Those with only temporary driver's licenses cannot opt into being registered. 

Registered voters will also be able to update their voter information when they interact with these agencies. 

"Automatic voter registration will mean less errors," explains Christian Diaz, Executive Director, Chicago Votes. "Government agencies that already collect voter information will share data electronically, making the process more efficient, more accurate and more secure. We think this will lead to shorter lines on election day and fewer people being turned away from voting." 


Violet Gallardo, Logan Square Neighborhood Assn and Devon Reid, former 26th Ward Aldermanic candidate, in Springfield, talked with legislators about Automatic Voter Registration

Furthermore, it contains no budgetary implications, no appropriations are required. In addition, it will not increase income taxes, sales taxes or property taxes. 

Rauner  has 60 days to sign this bill into law, to veto it  or to do nothing,  in which case the bill becomes law.  

The bill will:

  • save the state money
  • make registration more accurate, secure and efficient
  • have bipartisan support and super majorities voting in favor.

"This is a bipartisan effort that the governor needs to respect and sign into law immediately," commented Diaz. 

Impact elsewhere
In January, Oregon was the first state to implement an Automatic Voter Registration. 

"The data coming out of Oregon shows that young republicans who were automatically registered came out to vote at higher rates than young republicans who were registered electronically. This reform makes voter registration more streamlined and efficient, so eligible voters are not confused on election day about the status of their registration," said Diaz, a Logan Square resident. 

As pointed out in The Southern Illinoisan, with an estimated 2.6 million Illinois residents eligible to vote, yet not registered, passage of the bill is important. In Oregon, there has been a 500 percent increase in the number of monthly voter registrants. And if all Illinois driver's license applicants are also automatically registered to vote, it is easy to see how that percentage could be duplicated here in Illinois. 

Beyond signing up…Voting! 
It is one thing to be registered and another to vote. Diaz explains that "Democracy reforms like this are just one piece of the puzzle. Aside from making sure eligible citizens are registered, it's important to

 have a healthy and vibrant civic arena for young people to learn:

  •  about democracy
  •  about the issues that impact them
  • about how their lived experience is connected to democracy and government 

"The bottom line is not to register voters or turn out voters, the bottom line is for our generation to understand that we are inheriting a system of power that we can transform and in order to transform it, we need to understand the rules of elections and government and participate so that our values are represented in government. 

"When we vote together, that's a lot of power. And voting together means that we have healthy civic education programs that elevate the issues that young people care about in an environment where the ballot is protected and all eligible citizens have access to the ballot, regardless of their political affiliation. " 

Turn out
"We saw record youth turnout in the last election," says Diaz, 

"when we as a city were talking about the role of the state's attorney in connection to Laquan McDonald and the countless victims of police violence. 

"When we elevated these issues as a city, connected them to the election of the cook county state's attorney, had online and election day registration, we had a competitive presidential primary--that's why half a million young voters participated in the last election," concluded Diaz. 


Governor Quinn signing Election Day Voter Registration into law with Chicago Votes leaders

Automatic Voter Registration is the latest step in a reform movement of  the Just Democracy Coalition made up of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, Common Cause Illinois, Chicago Votes, IL PIRG, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Action Now Institute and CHANGE IL. 

Chicago Votes launched a campaign for Online Voter Registration with the Just Democracy Coalition  three years ago. The following year they won a campaign for election day voter registration

Wrap up
When/if SB250 takes effect, Illinois will be the sixth state to pass Automatic Voter Registration, putting our state on the leading edge of civic rights. 

"In three years, we will have taken a famously corrupt state and made voting rights a priority. We are leading nationally in efforts to ensure all eligible citizens are heard in politics," concluded Diaz. 

Photos courtesy of Chicago Votes



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