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Automatic Voter Registration Becomes Law in Illinois

With Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature, 80 million Americans — one in four — now live in a state where the reform has been approved. In Illinois, the legislation had passed by a unanimous vote in both chambers earlier this summer.

August 28, 2017

Chicago, IL – Today, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill to bring auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion to the state, which could help sign up more than 1 million eligible voters. The legis­la­tion had passed by a unan­im­ous vote in both cham­bers earlier this summer.

Rauner’s signa­ture means that 80 million Amer­ic­ans — 1 in 4 — now live in a state where auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion has been approved.   

The plan would help sign up Illinois­ans currently not on the voter rolls by auto­mat­ic­ally regis­ter­ing them when they inter­act with the DMV and other state agen­cies, unless they decline. It is an approach that not only increases voter parti­cip­a­tion, but also saves states money and increases accur­acy of voter rolls. Illinois’ 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.

The bill, which passed 55–0 in the state Senate and 115–0 in the House, was sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar (D) and other legis­lat­ors. The Just Demo­cracy Coali­tion advoc­ated strongly for the legis­la­tion, which also had the support of several local elec­tion offi­cials includ­ing Cook County Clerk David Orr, along with the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Illinois is the 10th state, along with Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to approve auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion. Oregon, the first state to fully imple­ment its auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion plan, now has some of the highest voter regis­tra­tion rates in the coun­try. Illinois’ unan­im­ous vote in both cham­bers, along with the Governor’s signa­ture, is the latest step in an unmis­tak­able trend of bipar­tisan support for the reform.  

“Auto­matic Voter Regis­tra­tion in Illinois is a huge leap forward,” said Jonathan Brater, Coun­sel with the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy program. “This ground­break­ing accom­plish­ment, brought about by the persist­ence of civic groups, elec­tion offi­cials, and legis­lat­ors, means a quarter of Amer­ic­ans now live in a state where AVR has been approved. We hope other states will follow suit.”

“Auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion was under­stood — rightly — as a solu­tion from nonpar­tisan reformers who want to make demo­cracy work better,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director, Asian Amer­ic­ans Advan­cing Justice, Chicago and Co-Coordin­ator of Just Demo­cracy Illinois.

“Auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion is a win-win," said Cook County Clerk David Orr. “For voters, it takes the burden of regis­tra­tion off their backs and shifts it to the govern­ment, where it should be. For elec­tion offi­cials, it creates a tremend­ous tool to clean up the voter rolls, and saves money as well.”

Read more about Auto­matic Voter Regis­tra­tion, and read more about this year’s voting trends in the Bren­nan Center’s Voting Laws Roundup 2017.

For more inform­a­tion or to sched­ule an inter­view with a Bren­nan Center expert, contact Rebecca Autrey at or 646–292–8316.