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Illinois House Passes Bipartisan Automatic Voter Registration Bill

The 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.

May 29, 2017

Legis­la­tion Clears by Unan­im­ous Vote in Both Cham­bers

Spring­field, Ill. – The Illinois House passed a bill today to bring auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion to the state by a unan­im­ous vote, follow­ing Senate passage earlier this month with no votes against. The ground­break­ing legis­la­tion, which was amended before House passage, will become law upon Senate final approval and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signa­ture. 

The 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.

The bill, which passed 48–0 in the 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 would be the ninth state plus Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to approve auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion. Oregon, the first state to fully imple­ment the plan, is now a national leader in voter regis­tra­tion rates. The unan­im­ous vote in both cham­bers is the culmin­a­tion of an increas­ing trend of bipar­tisan support for the reform.  

“Illinois joins a grow­ing national consensus,” said Jonathan Brater, coun­sel with the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy program. “Auto­mat­ic­ally regis­ter­ing citizens is a common-sense idea that will improve our demo­cracy. More and more, lawmakers of all stripes are under­stand­ing the bene­fits. This ground­break­ing accom­plish­ment is a test­a­ment to the sound­ness of auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion as a policy, and the persist­ence of civic groups, elec­tion offi­cials, and legis­lat­ors in bring­ing it closer to real­ity. We hope Gov. Rauner will make it offi­cial and sign this bill right away.”

“We are thrilled that auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion passed the House today with broad, bipar­tisan support,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director at Asian Amer­ic­ans Advan­cing Justice Chicago, and a Co-Coordin­ator of Just Demo­cracy Illinois. “We urge Governor Rauner to sign auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion into law and create a more modern, secure, and accur­ate voter regis­tra­tion system for Illinois.”

“Auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion is a win-win for all,” said David Orr, Cook County Clerk. “It takes the burden of updat­ing voter regis­tra­tion off the backs of voters and shifts it onto govern­ment, where it belongs, and provides elec­tion author­it­ies with a tremend­ous tool to main­tain clean, up-to-date voter rolls. The bipar­tisan support that this bill has earned shows that auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion is recog­nized as a common sense, good govern­ment meas­ure. I am hope­ful this bill will finally be signed into law.”

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