Automatic Voter Registration Bill Sails Through Illinois State Senate

Late last week, the Illinois State Senate passed a measure that helps get more residents registered to vote. The bill still has to clear the Illinois House before it moves to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 250 was introduced by State Senator Andy Manar as a means of streamlining the voter registration process. Currently, Illinois residents are asked whether they want to register to vote when applying for a drivers license. Under Manar’s bill, voter registration is automatic and residents have the choice to opt out.

Manar said it is important to have more people voting because, “If more people voted, government would be more reflective of the people who go to the ballot box.”

If more people voted, government would be more reflective of the people who go to the ballot box.
Illinois State Senator Andy Manar

Passing 42-16, Manar’s bill was not without critics. Most of the opponents were Republicans along with some suburban Democrats. Among them, Republican State Senator Kyle McCarter, said in the Senate, “This situation, in my opinion, sets people up for breaking the law. And I don’t think anybody wants that.”

McCarter’s concern about voter fraud is one often offered by Republicans. Another Republican, Jim Oberweis, also said, “I have at least been told that they have buses of people going from precinct to precinct, voting multiple times.” According to political observers, the automatic voter registration is assumed to disproportionately benefit Democratic constituencies rather than Republican ones: young, minority, and low-income.

According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, there are an estimated 2.6 million eligible but unregistered voters in the state.

After the bill’s passage, Manar issued a press release announcing:

“This plan will help boost voter turnout, save the state money and ensure that every eligible voter in Illinois has the chance to exercise their right.”

The bill now moves back to the House, which Democrats control 71-47, and where it is expected to pass. Then the bill will land on the governor’s desk.

The pass’s advocates are hopeful the measure will gain the governor’s signature. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has previously said of the effort, “I am a big fan of simplying the voter registration process.”