Despite Governor’s Veto, Automatic Voter Registration Will Happen in Illinois

Illinois is one step away from becoming the seventh state to institute automatic voter registration.

In August, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed Illinois Senate Bill 250, an automatic voter registration bill. The Illinois Senate Thursday overrode the Republican governor’s veto 38-18. The Illinois House is expected to vote on overriding the governor’s veto after Thanksgiving.

Illinois Senate Bill 250 automatically registers individuals to vote when they conduct business at state agencies, such as at Drivers Services, unless they decide to opt out. This reverses the current system. State workers currently ask people whether they wish to register.

State Senator Daniel Biss announced in a press release:

“Automatic voter registration is an issue that brought Democrats and Republicans together in the Illinois Legislature in the spring, and it continues to generate bipartisan support all over the country.”

Although touted as a measure with bipartisan support, few of Illinois’ elected Republicans supported Senate Bill 250. Republicans largely question whether registration distinguishes between eligible and ineligible voters.

When Rauner vetoed the legislation in August, he cited voter fraud concerns. He noted previous occasions of non-citizens voting in Illinois after obtaining driver’s licenses.

Another Republican, Sen. Dan McConchie, said voter fraud remains the key issue when opposing the voter registration bill:

“Under this proposal, non-citizens will be automatically registered to vote and then perhaps later removed from the rolls. If a non-citizen is registered and the state fails to remove that person in a timely fashion, they will get a voter card in the mail and likely believe they can legally vote. And if they do vote, they will be committing a felony.”

Republicans proposed alternative legislation, Senate Bill 3452. This bill would have asked individuals to opt out of voter registration at the beginning, rather than at the end of the process. According to bill sponsor Sen. Sue Rezin, by screening citizenship records beforehand, it prevents voter fraud. She said:

“Unlike Senate Bill 250, my proposal balances the desire to make registering to vote much easier with the desire to ensure only eligible voters are being registered to vote.”

Rezin filed her bill last week. The Senate referred it to committee.

Although Illinois House Democrats suffered losses that will end their supermajority, they still retain enough to override Rauner’s veto. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan already pushed through votes on other vetoed bills which had strong Democratic support. With the override of Illinois Senate Bill 250 in the Senate, the bill is likely to get an override vote in the House. The House returns to session on November 29.

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