Automatic Voter Registration Becomes Law in Illinois

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 rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu or 646-292-8316.

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