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 Automatic voter registration bill passes Senate unanimously

SB1933 will make voter rolls secure, modern and cost effective
SPRINGFIELD (May 5, 2017)–The Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 1933 to create automatic voter registration unanimously on Friday, to applause from backers in the Just Democracy Illinois coalition of civic and voting rights groups.

SB 1933 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 in the local jurisdiction unless they opt out. It creates a similar program for other state agencies. SB 1933 passed in 48-0 vote.

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 the state Senate once again has voted to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois, and I hope the House will follow our lead and that Governor Rauner will sign it into law,” said Sen. Manar. “When it comes to modernizing state government, automatic voter registration checks all the boxes: it eliminates redundant paperwork, it cuts down on the number of times people have to interact with a government office, it curbs voter fraud, and it saves money. The time is right for this reform.”

“We are thrilled that automatic voter registration passed the Senate today with broad, bipartisan support,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago. “We encourage members of the House and Gov. Rauner to follow the Senate’s lead by taking decisive action to pass automatic voter registration and finally create a more modern, secure, and accurate voter registration system for Illinois.”

Gov. Rauner has previously indicated that he supports automatic voter registration in concept. After two amendments passed through committee on Wednesday, a Rauner spokesperson said they are “hopeful of reaching consensus on a bill that all parties can support.”

“We are confident the new legislation addresses Governor Rauner’s concerns and we are actively working with his office to finalize agreement,” said Kang

The amendments made Wednesday were mostly technical in nature. They included changes to align automatic voter registration with the implementation of REAL ID at the office of the Secretary of State, and adding two agencies to the program: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. REAL ID is a federal program that tightens standards for state identification documents, expected to be implemented in Illinois in 2018.

“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. “Updating and modernizing our outdated voter registration system will also streamline the registration process, strengthen security, and save time and money. We applaud the senators who voted 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.

“Every eligible voter who wants to vote should be able to,” said Rudy Garrett of Chicago Votes, an organization dedicated to engaging young voters in the democratic process. “Through automatic voter registration, we can ensure that eligible voters are able to raise their voices and be heard on issues that matter to them the most.”

Automatic voter registration has already passed or is in the process of implementation in seven 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 in communities of color and with youth voters by 26 points and 20 points respectively.

Just Democracy Illinois is led by a steering committee that includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago, CHANGE Illinois, Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Chicago Votes, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and Illinois PIRG.