Press Releases

For any media inquiries, please contact Jeff Raines at jeff@changeil.org.

PRESS RELEASES

 
October 3, 2017

CHANGE Illinois Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Case Gill v. Whitford

 
CHICAGO — CHANGE Illinois was encouraged by discussions at the United States Supreme Court this morning on the landmark gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford. The plaintiffs arguing in favor of fair maps made a strong case and it was clear based on the questions asked by the Court that all the justices were seriously engaged.

If the Court establishes a new constitutional standard prohibiting partisan gerrymandering, this will apply nationwide and could be used to finally change Illinois’ seriously flawed redistricting process before new legislative maps are drawn after the 2020 census.

“The effects of gerrymandering have been harmful for Illinois and its residents. Gridlock is at an all-time high and governance is at a new low,” stated CHANGE Illinois spokesperson, Jeff Raines. “The selfish, personal interests of our politicians should never outweigh the voices of the voters or the needs of our state.”

CHANGE Illinois is optimistic about the High Court’s Spring decision and is committed to building momentum and public awareness to pressure the General Assembly to enact meaningful reform. Using the 2018 election cycle as a policy window, CHANGE Illinois pledges to get candidates and incumbents on-the-record about gerrymandering and their plans to pass reforms.

A recent poll found that 71 percent of Americans favor the Supreme Court setting new rules for gerrymandering. 62 percent stated they would be less likely to vote for someone that supported partisan gerrymandering.

Last October, a Paul Simon Institute poll showed similar overwhelming support here in Illinois for redistricting reform – with 72 percent of Illinoisans supporting an independent commission drawing Illinois’ district lines.

Recent elections results in Illinois have shown what gerrymandering has done to voter choice at the ballot box. In a study of Illinois’ 2014 elections, it was found that nearly 60 percent of state house seats were uncontested and even greater number of state senate seats – 63 percent.

That same study found that, on average over the past four decades, 88 percent of Illinois voters (in 104 of 118 House races, 52 of 59 Senate races) had no choice at all on the ballot or a choice between a sure winner and a sure loser.

Illinois’ current redistricting process is done by a bipartisan legislative committee of four Republicans and four Democrats chosen by leaders of both parties. When voting for which legislative maps to enact, in the event of a tie – which has been the case the last three times – an additional Democratic or Republican tiebreaker commissioner is chosen by drawing a single name out of a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s hat.

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September 14, 2017

CHANGE Illinois Thanks Ra Joy for His Leadership

CHICAGO – Today, CHANGE Illinois thanked Executive Director Ra Joy for his leadership and his extensive work fighting for democracy reform policies in Illinois. It was announced this morning that Ra Joy would depart CHANGE and officially join Chris Kennedy’s ticket for the 2018 gubernatorial election.

CHANGE Illinois Board Chair John Sirek expressed his gratitude to Ra for his leadership at CHANGE:

“We are extremely proud of Ra Joy and all that he has done to fight for the people of Illinois. During his tenure as Executive Director of CHANGE Illinois, Ra has been a driving force in the fight against gerrymandering and was instrumental in getting same-day and automatic voter registration enacted. Throughout Ra’s entire career, he has focused on making our communities and state a better place, so it comes as no surprise that he would accept an offer to do the same thing on an even larger scale. Ra is the type of thought leader who will bring out the best in all candidates in next year’s election and we wish him the best of luck.”

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September 7, 2017

Just Democracy Coalition Applauds Sen. Duckworth’s Introduction of PROVE Act, Aimed at Increasing Youth Voter Turnout


Pre-registration bill would automatically add eligible 16- and 17-year-olds to voter rolls when they turn 18

 

CHICAGO — Fresh off its win from the signing of automatic voter registration last week, the Just Democracy Illinois coalition applauded Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s introduction of the PROVE Act (The Pre-Registration Of Voters Everywhere Act). Pre-registration would allow otherwise eligible 16- and 17 year-olds to register to vote, so that their registration would become active as soon as they become eligible by age. In Illinois, voters are eligible to vote in general elections at 18, and at 17 in primaries if the voter will be 18 by the general election.

In recent years, Illinois has enacted several laws to encourage and increase voter participation, including: automatic, online, and same-day voter registration laws, and expanding early voting periods.

Just last week, with the signing of the bill to create automatic voter registration, Illinois cemented its status as a national leader on voting rights and increasing access to the ballot box.

“Our democracy is best served when we all do our part to encourage voter participation,” said Stevie Valles, Executive Director of Chicago Votes, a non-profit which focuses on leadership development and Chicago youth political participation. “Policies like pre-registration can act as a down payment on democracy to get young people civically engaged even before they turn 18 and make voting a habit throughout their lives.”

Illinois lags behind the rest of the United States when it comes to youth voter turnout. Pre-registration has been successful in 14 other states, allowing high school students to pre-register as part of civics courses. Combined with automatic voter registration in Illinois, Senator Duckworth’s bill would remove unnecessary barriers for 16- and 17-year-olds by pre-registering them to vote when they get their driver’s licenses or state IDs and placing them on the voter rolls automatically when they turn 18.

A pre-registration policy was included in the first draft of automatic voter registration legislation in 2016 but was negotiated out, and was not included in the final legislation signed into law last week. Illinois State Rep. Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) has introduced pre-registration bills in recent years, including HB 3909 earlier this year.

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.

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August 28, 2017

Gov. Rauner signs automatic voter registration bill after bipartisan passage in legislature


Illinois becomes a national leader in expanding voting rights, access

 

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1933 to create automatic voter registration in Illinois on Monday, the culmination of years of organizing and legislative work by lawmakers and advocates in the Just Democracy Illinois coalition of civic and voting rights groups.

Illinois is now the 10th state (plus Washington, D.C.) to enact automatic voter registration (AVR) into law, and is the first midwestern state to do so.

SB 1933 reforms current registration laws so that whenever an eligible Illinois citizen applies for, updates, or renews a driver’s license or state ID, he or she will be automatically registered to vote at their new address, unless they choose to opt out. AVR creates a similar program for other state agencies, which will make it the farthest reaching automatic voter registration law in the country. In May, the legislation passed both the House and the Senate in unanimous, bipartisan fashion: 115-0 and 55-0, respectively.

“With the Governor’s signing of automatic voter registration, Illinois has solidified its status as a national leader in expanding voting rights and ballot access,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago. “Over two years, the Just Democracy Illinois coalition has worked across the aisle to gain support for AVR, a model that can now be duplicated in other states fighting to modernizing their voter registration system.”

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) first introduced the proposal in 2015. It passed in both the House and Senate in May 2016 with broad bipartisan support before Governor Rauner issued a veto in August 2016.

The bill passed in 2017 after two amendments were adopted into the language, including 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.

“With the signing of this landmark legislation, Illinois becomes a national leader in the effort to preserve and expand voting rights for all citizens,” Sen. Manar said. “Automatic voter registration will modernize and streamline the process in Illinois. It will produce a system that is less expensive to maintain, more secure and less cumbersome on individual voters. But most of all, it will open up the ballot box, allowing new voters to leave their fingerprints on their democracy.”

“I am proud that my colleagues in the General Assembly voted unanimously to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois,” said Rep. Gabel. “This legislation is a model of bipartisan cooperation and will make voter registration more modern, efficient and accessible to all eligible Illinois voters.”

“This law puts Illinois on the forefront of states to make voter registration easier, yet more secure while respecting privacy,” added co-sponsor Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago).

“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 help close the racial gap in our voter rolls while saving time and money. We thank lawmakers and Gov. Rauner for taking decisive action 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 citizens to the voter rolls.

SB 1933 is effective immediately upon signing, but has a number of different implementation dates. On September 1st of this year, the State Board of Elections is required to expand an existing program to automatically updating existing voter registrations through data the state receives through its membership in ERIC–an intra- and inter-state data sharing program–to cross reference and find out-of-date registrations every 60 days. The DMV will implement AVR by July 1, 2018, and other the other state agencies covered by the law will implement it by July 1, 2019. At least one public hearing on implementation will occur within six months of today.

Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG said the Just Democracy Illinois coalition’s work to bring modern, effective voter registration to Illinois will continue. “We look forward to working with elections officials and state agency staff to ensure automatic voter registration is implemented effectively and on-time.”

One such office involved the implementation process is the Secretary of State’s office, who also expressed pleasure with the AVR effort. “I am pleased that we have worked in a bipartisan effort to have a law that will make it easier for qualified people to get registered and take part in the democratic process,’ said Secretary of State Jesse White.

Studies in Oregon and Vermont have shown the success of AVR laws across the country. Vermont and Oregon have both seen increased registration numbers in key communities as a result of the laws. Oregon, the first state to implement automatic voter registration, has also seen an increasing voter turnout with young voters by 7 points after AVR’s implementation.

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.

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June 5, 2017

Lawmakers, advocates celebrate historic passage of automatic voter registration bill as Gov. Rauner signals plan to sign


After bipartisan passage of automatic voter registration in General Assembly and Gov. Rauner’s announcement that he intends to sign the bill, lawmakers and advocacy groups who have led the charge say Illinois is becoming national voting rights model


WHO: SB 1933 lead sponsors Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-18th) and Rep. Mike Fortner, (R-49th); Cook County Clerk David Orr; Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th); Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th); Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39th); Rudy Garrett, Interim Executive Director, Chicago Votes; Ami Gandhi, Director of Voting Rights and Civic Empowerment, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; Tuyet Le, Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago; Abe Scarr, Director, Illinois PIRG; Celina Villanueva, New Americans Democracy Project/Youth Engagement Manager, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Jay Young, Political Director of Common Cause Illinois; Ra Joy, Executive Director, CHANGE Illinois

WHAT: Advocates and champions of the automatic voter registration bill join together to thank Gov. Bruce Rauner for his intention to sign the bill and encourage him to do so quickly so that state agencies can begin implementing the law.

8 states and Washington, D.C. have passed AVR already. Illinois’ law could add as many as 1.13 million new voters to the rolls.

WHERE: The office of Cook County Clerk David Orr, 69 W. Washington, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60602

WHEN: Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 9:30AM CST

SPRINGFIELD (June 5, 2017)– Lawmakers and members of the Just Democracy Illinois coalition of of civic and voting rights groups will gather on Tuesday for a press conference to celebrate the passage of Senate Bill 1933 to create automatic voter registration (AVR) in Illinois. Gov. Rauner has pledged to sign the bill in the coming weeks.

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 the 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, with 66 Democrats and 49 Republicans voting in favor. Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) was a chief co-sponsor and sponsored the final amendment to the bill.

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

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May 29, 2017

Automatic voter registration bill passes House


SB1933, to make voter rolls secure, modern and cost effective, will now go to Gov. Rauner’s desk

 

SPRINGFIELD (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 5th 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.

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May 5, 2017

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.

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