Illinois Authorizes Automatic Voter Registration

By: Ryan Gallagher September 20, 2017
A new IL law automatically registers voters when they sign up for driver's licenses.
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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) recently signed a bill authorizing automatic voter registration of its citizens after they interact with certain Illinois state agencies. Illinois citizens will see this change first when getting or renewing their driver’s licenses with the Secretary of State (SOS). 

While Rauner vetoed similar legislation last year due to the threat of voter fraud, this year’s bill was signed after changes to the bill’s language, combined with the governor’s push to strengthen voting rights. 

When the automatic voter registration bill came around a second time this summer, lawmakers affirmed that the new rule would only register a voter if they were legally recognized with the ability to vote in the United States. Therefore, American citizens who are 18 years or older will be automatically registered, while younger individuals or those who are not lawful U.S. citizens will not. In addition, the legislation’s language states that citizens have the ability to opt out of automatic registration if they so decide.

After the bill was vetoed last year and subsequently rewritten, it passed both chambers of the Illinois legislature unanimously.

The law makes Illinois the 10th state to enact legislation of this type and will immediately allow election officials to create guidelines regarding how the law will be implemented.

The legislation is set to take effect on July 1, 2018, with other state agencies doing the same a year later, to include Illinois’ Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, among others.

The fact that there will be multiple agencies with access to the same data will make voter verification that much more accurate, according to Abe Scarr, the director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a nonprofit organization which pushed for the automatic registration.

“This is good bipartisan legislation and it addresses the fundamental fact that the right to vote is foundational for the rights of Americans in our democracy,” Rauner said at the Chicago bill signing ceremony. “We as a people need to do everything we can to knock down barriers, remove hurdles for all those who are eligible to vote, to be able to vote.

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