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Republicans Oppose Illinois Online Voter Registration over Fraud Concerns

by Carl Wicklander, published
Credit: Chicago Tribune

(Credit: Chicago Tribune)

In the rush that accompanied the end of the legislative session on May 31, a bill passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly that, among other things, set up online voter registration.

As the state struggled over high profile issues from passing concealed carry to its failure to pass public pension reform and gay marriage, the online voter registration bill did pass, but lost in the shuffle.

House Bill 2418, amending the Illinois election code, now sits on the desk of Governor Pat Quinn. According to a Quinn spokesman, the governor intends to sign it.

The online voter registration process would work very much like it does in person. For the online version, the applicant must provide his or her driver's license or state identification card, the date of its issuance, and the last four digits of the applicant's social security number. Online registration also "permits a person to apply to register to vote or to update his or her existing voter registration."

Yet, due to the haste with which it passed both chambers, little funding was allotted for the bill.

According to the Decatur Herald-Review:

"Early estimates put the cost at about $1.5 million, with the bulk of that coming out of the board of elections budget. The Illinois Secretary of State's Office estimates the program will have a start-up cost of about $50,000."

Although the bill passed 66-49, the bill has a number of critics.

The Illinois Tea Party decried that the bill "ensures that vote fraud will be rampant throughout the entire state." Several Democratic co-sponsors also removed their names toward the end of the session.

A controversial amendment to the bill has also drawn the ire of many Republicans because of a provision made exclusively for Lake County, which is in the Chicago metropolitan area.

At its heart is a measure that essentially eliminates -- or at least bypasses -- the county clerk's office, held by a Republican, and sets up an election commission appointed by a judge.

Prior to its passage, Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor opposed it:

"The proposed change would result in a $600,000 unfunded mandate annually on Lake County by duplicating staff and offices. It also treats Lake County voters differently than any other county in the state by eliminating a referendum for voters to approve."

Republicans are normally cautious about non-traditional voter registration, usually out of a concern that it makes voter fraud easier. While proven cases of voter fraud are atypical, the case of setting up an election commission for one county is unusual and could provoke a class action lawsuit.

With its last two former governors serving prison sentences, Illinois has become a synonym for political corruption. On top of this perception, the state also suffered another credit downgrading due to its inability to make progress on the public pension crisis that currently runs a deficit over $100 billion.

The Illinois online voter registration may be one instance of making government more efficient in the Land of Lincoln, but there is plenty of controversy surrounding the rest of the bill.


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