Automatic Voter Registration Efforts in Illinois

Illinois became the tenth state to approve automatic voter registration in August 2017, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that the legislature passed unanimously.

August 28, 2017

On August 28, 2017, Illinois became the ninth state to authorize automatic voter registration, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that the legislature passed unanimously. This effort follows Gov. Rauner’s veto of a separate automatic registration bill one year earlier.

The new plan could help sign up more than 1 million eligible but unregistered Illinoisans by automatically registering citizens when they interact with the DMV and other state agencies, unless they decline. The legislation is notable for having the potential to bring the reform to a broad range of state agencies, as opposed to other efforts around the country that focus largely on driver’s license-issuing offices.

Prior Developments

Voter registration modernization efforts gained momentum in 2013, when the governor signed an online voter registration bill into law. The system launched the following year, enabling individuals with a state driver’s license or non-driver ID to use an online portal to register to vote and update existing registration information.

The state also implemented Election Day registration in 2014. Individuals may register on Election Day and during the early voting period at certain designated locations. Additionally, registered voters who move within the state without updating their registration can, on Election Day, fill out a change of address form at a designated location and then cast a regular ballot at their new polling place.

By 2016, Illinois had begun electronically transferring voter registration information from driver’s license issuing offices to election officials. This electronic transfer of information and signatures is a key building block of automatic registration. Illinois has also begun using electronic poll books to sign in voters.

Gains from Voter Registration Modernization in Illinois

The steps Illinois has taken thus far have yielded increases in voter registration for the state. For example:  

  • According to the Election Assistance Commission, the state received 137,757 registration forms through its same day registration program during the November 2016 election.