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The Guardians of Democracy

Illinois Passes Automatic Voter Registration


Illinois Passes Automatic Voter Registration

Illinois’ legislature unanimously passed legislation Monday that would make it the ninth state with automatic voter registration, adding over one million new voters to the rolls.

The House passed the bill 115-0. It will now return to the Senate for agreements on changes, according to the AP.

ThinkProgress added:

“The bill would automatically register eligible citizens who visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, Secretary of State’s office, and several other state agencies unless they opt out. It heads to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R)’s desk after final approval by the state senate, which also unanimously passed it earlier this month.

Advocates estimate that roughly one million out of 2.2 million unregistered but eligible Illinois voters will be added to the rolls once they visit a participating agency.

The bill marks the second time lawmakers in Illinois have attempted to enact automatic registration. Last August, Rauner vetoed a similar bill, citing the threat of non-citizens committing voter fraud even though studies show that voter fraud, particularly by non-citizens, is virtually non-existent.”

“The consequences could be injurious to our election system,” Rauner said at the time, urging the legislature to make reforms to the bill before sending it back to him.

Voting advocates are hopeful that Rauner, who expressed support for automatic registration before vetoing the last bill, will sign the legislation with the changes. Trevor Gervais, lead organizer with the government watchdog group Common Cause Illinois, told ThinkProgress that Rauner’s concerns about fraud are unfounded.

“The first bill was not going to welcome in voter fraud and the second bill isn’t going to either,” he said. “When we drafted the first bill, we did it with both Democrats and Republicans… This year we implemented a few new things like front-end opt-out and that was able to push this to unanimous support.”

Gervais said that’s especially noteworthy given the current highly-partisan period in Illinois politics.

“It’s generally a very toxic political environment and the fact that we’re able to now see an automatic voter registration bill pass with completely unanimous, bipartisan support is hopefully a step in the right direction, not just for our state politics but for other states throughout the Midwest and the country that should really be passing this regardless of partisanship,” he said.

Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration, following the example of Oregon, which saw record levels of participation after it became the first state to implement the policy in 2015. Illinois would be the first state to automatically register citizens who visit agencies other than the DMV.



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