By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – On Sept. 4, Illinois became the ninth state to approve an automatic voter registration system when Governor Bruce Rauner signed the legislation sponsored by a Metro-East state senator, Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).
Under the new law, adults who interact with one of several state agencies will also have their voter registration information automatically updated unless they opt out.
The system has led to increased registration and voting in states such as Oregon where it has been in use. Others include Alaska, California, Vermont, West Virginia, Colorado, Georgia and Rhode Island, plus Washington D.C.
The final bill was passed in the Illinois Legislature with no opposing votes. Republican Gov. Rauner’s signing of it went against his party’s recent campaign to use new barriers to registration to shrink the electorate in its favor.
Manar, a strong supporter of the Labor Movement who has been working on this plan for two years, said this law will counteract those efforts by bringing an estimated one million new voters onto the voter rolls.
“We in Illinois are pushing back on that,” he said. “While others are trying to close the doors to the ballot box, we are opening those doors.
“This bill makes absolute sense. It will save government millions of dollars once it’s fully implemented. It will improve the accuracy of our voting rolls,” Manar added. “It does all sorts of things we claim we want to do in Springfield. But most of all, it removes barriers for individuals to put their fingerprints on their democracy.”
Rauner thanked Manar and other Democratic leaders for making some procedural changes to the bill, which he had once opposed. “I think we have a good, strong piece of legislation that makes it easier for everyone who is eligible to vote to be able to vote,” Rauner said.
He added, “The right to vote is foundational for the rights of Americans in our democracy. We as a people need to do everything we can to knock down barriers, remove hurdles for all those who are eligible to vote.”
Rauner vetoed a similar bill in November 2016 and Democrats then were unable to mount an override.
The registration would occur in the Secretary of State’s Driver Services and Vehicle Services divisions; the Department of Human Services’ Division of Family and Community Services and Division of Rehabilitation Services; plus, the departments of Financial and Professional Regulation, Natural Resources and Employment Security. The Department of Aging and the Department of Health Care and Family Services were not included in the legislation.
GOP STILL PUSHING FOR ‘SMALLER, WHITER ELECTORATE’
A New York Times editorial lauded Illinois for passing the law but noted that nationally, Republicans are still fighting hard to limit voter participation using bogus claims of fraud.
It stated: “What’s really outrageous is the brazenness with which Republican lawmakers continue to hawk their anti-voter laws, and their bogus claims of widespread fraud, pretending to care about electoral integrity when what they’re really after is a smaller, whiter electorate that they believe is their ticket to eternal victory.”