Illinois could become the fifth state with automatic voter registration

  • Illinois residents are now one step closer to being able to automatically register to vote when they renew their driver's license.

      Illinois residents are now one step closer to being able to automatically register to vote when they renew their driver's license. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

 
By Mary Hansen
mhansen@dailyherald.com
Updated 5/31/2016 11:09 PM

Illinoisans moved one step closer to being able to automatically register to vote when they renew their driver's licenses.

The measure, which was approved by both the Illinois House and Senate Tuesday in the final hours of the spring session, will go to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for approval.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rauner has indicated in the past that he'd support simplifying the voting process but hasn't specifically said whether he'd sign the plan into law.

Republican lawmakers split over the proposal.

If the bill is approved, Illinois would become the fifth state to enact automatic voter registration, joining California, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia. In addition the Secretary of State's office, four other state agencies would be able to add eligible people to voter rolls. These include the Department on Aging and the departments of Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services, and Employment Security. State officials and local elections boards would have until Jan. 1, 2018, to fully implement the plan.

"Automatic voter registration will modernize voter registration in Illinois, put more eligible voters on the rolls, and make our voting lists more accurate and secure," said state Rep. Robyn Gabel, an Evanston Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House.

Still, Republican lawmakers raised concerns, including questions over the cost of implementing the plan, particularly for local election boards.

"We've made so many other opportunities with early voting," said state Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican. "I think it's important for the voter to have a little bit of initiative to do what they need to do and not just automatically be signed up."

Democrats argued that automatic registration lowers the barrier to voting for lower-income citizens or those who live far away from places to register.

"(Voters) don't have to pay a poll tax, they don't have to pass a literacy test," said state Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat. "The franchise is a fundamental right. We don't put up obstacles to allow people to vote."

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