SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, May 29, 2017 -- The Illinois House unanimously passed Senate Bill 1933 to create automatic voter registration (AVR) on Monday, to applause from backers in the Just Democracy Illinois coalition of civic and voting rights groups.
“We are thrilled that automatic voter registration passed the House today with broad, bipartisan support,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, and a Co-Coordinator of Just Democracy Illinois. “We urge Governor Rauner to sign automatic voter registration into law and create a more modern, secure, and accurate voter registration system for Illinois.”
SB1933 reforms current registration laws so that whenever an eligible Illinois resident applies for, updates or renews a driver’s license or state ID, he or she will be automatically registered to vote or have their registration updated, unless they opt out. It also creates a similar program for other state agencies, such as the Department of Human Services and Department of Natural Resources.
The achievement of bipartisan agreement on legislation dealing with elections is remarkable in the midst of partisan tension in Springfield. The legislation passed the Senate on May 5 with a 48-0 vote, with 22 Republicans and 26 Democrats voting in favor. In the House, the AVR bill was cosponsored by members of both parties, and passed 115-0. Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) was a chief co-sponsor and sponsored the final amendment to the bill.
"Automatic voter registration, as passed this year, will allow technology to help make our elections more secure, more efficient, and more open to all citizens of Illinois,” said Rep. Fortner. “This bill will create a seamless process for citizens to register and keep their registration up-to-date as they move. At the same time, it respects the privacy of those in the system and those who choose not to participate."
Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) first introduced the proposal in 2015, which passed in both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support before Governor Rauner issued a veto.
“I am proud that my colleagues in the House voted to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois, making voter registration more modern, efficient and accessible to all eligible voters,” said Rep. Gabel. "This legislation is a model of bipartisan cooperation and I urge Governor Rauner to sign it into law.”
“We retooled parts of this plan based on suggestions from both sides of the aisle. There’s no plausible reason Gov. Rauner shouldn’t sign it the moment it lands on his desk,” Sen. Manar said. “If he is serious about modernizing Illinois government and saving money for taxpayers, then automatic voter registration is an excellent way to do both.”
Gov. Rauner has previously indicated that he supports automatic voter registration in concept. After two amendments passed through the Senate Executive Committee earlier this month, a Rauner spokesperson said they are “hopeful of reaching consensus on a bill that all parties can support.”
“We worked with Governor Rauner’s office on the House amendment, and are confident the final legislation addresses the governor’s concerns,” said Kang.
The amendments passed in the House and Senate included changes to align automatic voter registration with the implementation of REAL ID at the office of the secretary of state, adding two agencies to the program, and making adjustments to ensure the program would be implemented in a timely and effective manner in the state agencies. The legislation includes an implementation timeline of July 2018 for the secretary of state, where the vast majority of voter registrations are processed, and July 2019 for other state agencies.
“Automatic voter registration will ensure every eligible voter -- Democrat, Republican, or Independent -- has an opportunity to have their voice heard on Election Day,” said Ra Joy of CHANGE Illinois. "We applaud all of the legislators from both houses and both parties who came together to move this common sense reform forward."
Last year, a national report estimated that automatic voter registration could add an additional 1.13 million eligible Illinois voters to the rolls.
"As an election administrator, it is crucial that we operate using clean and efficient voting lists," said Cook County Clerk David Orr. "Thanks to the tireless efforts of Just Democracy Illinois and others, we are hopefully bringing automatic voter registration to Illinois."
"We are excited for AVR's passage,” added Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten. “This will improve the quality of our voter registration data and improve the service we can provide at polling places for election day registration. Hopefully the legislature will quickly follow with funding for implementation.”
Automatic voter registration has already passed or is in the process of implementation in eight states and the District of Columbia, and more than 20 other states have bills pending. Oregon was the first state to implement automatic voter registration, where it has been successful in increasing voter turnout with youth voters by 6 points and increasing voter registration numbers within communities of color by 26 points.
“Involving young people in voting is a down payment on our democracy,” said Rudy Garrett of Chicago Votes, an organization dedicated to engaging young voters in the democratic process. “Automatic voter registration will help more young voters raise their voices and be heard on issues that matter to them.”
Just Democracy Illinois is led by a steering committee that includes Action Now Institute, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, CHANGE Illinois, Chicago Votes, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Illinois PIRG.
The coalition includes 11 more members and their two-year campaign for automatic voter registration was endorsed by a diverse collection of more than 65 organizations.