Illinois Automatic Voter Registration Vetoed by Governor, Faces Override

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation last week that would have instituted automatic voter registration. However, the legislature may have the votes necessary to override his veto.

Senate Bill 250 aims to automatically register eligible Illinois residents when they visit driver service facilities. Under the legislation, a state employee would inform the applicant of his or her ability to accept or opt out. Currently, an estimated 2.6 million Illinois residents are eligible to vote but are not on the rolls.

Senate Bill 250 passed both houses of the General Assembly in May. Then Governor Rauner, a Republican, vetoed the legislation last week, citing issues of potential voter fraud.

In his veto message, Rauner said:

“We know that non-citizens have registered to vote in Illinois after obtaining a driver’s license and voted in recent elections. . . . Each of these cases of voter fraud was caught by immigration officials, not the state of Illinois.”

Despite the veto, Rauner said he sympathized with the efforts to increase voter participation.

However, he attested that the legislation does not comply with federal law. The governor said that the state Board of Elections must filter out ineligible individuals if the bill became state law. “Some of the agencies in possession of citizenship-related information are prohibited by federal law from sharing that information” with the Illinois Board of Elections, he wrote. Rauner’s statement indicated how he sees voter fraud potentially slipping through the system.

State Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat and one of the bill’s cosponsors, criticized the governor’s veto. Manar said in a press release:

“The governor talks a lot about the need to streamline bureaucracy and cut government waste. Automatically registering voters would have allowed us to do exactly that. Although this veto is a setback, I will continue to work with advocates to ensure voting access is a top priority in Illinois.”

The automatic voter registration legislation passed with large majorities in each legislative chamber. Legislators will return in November, and will likely challenge the governor’s actions. Although not all Democrats voted for the bill, they have sufficient numbers to successfully override the veto.