Automatic Voter Registration Efforts in Illinois

Illinois would become the tenth state to approve automatic registration if Gov. Rauner signs a bill that the legislature passed unanimously.

June 12, 2017

In May 2017, the Illinois legislature unanimously passed an automatic voter registration bill that Gov. Bruce Rauner is expected to sign. This effort follows Gov. Rauner’s August 2016 veto of a similar bill that had passed the legislature with bipartisan majorities.

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. It is the first automatic voter registration legislation to bring the reform to a broad range of state agencies, beyond only driver’s license issuing offices. If Gov. Rauner signs the bill, Illinois would join the growing list of states that have adopted automatic registration since 2015.

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. Illinois received 31,000 online voter registration applications between the system’s launch in June 2014 and the registration deadline for the November 2014 election.

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.