Press Releases

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

PRESS RELEASES

Statement on 2018 Ballot Deadline Passing

 
Monday, May 7th is the deadline for the Fair Maps Amendment to pass the Illinois General Assembly in order to appear on the November 2018 ballot. Article XIV of the Illinois constitution requires a minimum six-month window between when the amendment is approved by three-fifths of both chambers and the next general election.

On behalf of the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative and all the organizations that endorsed the Fair Maps Amendment (HJRCA43/SJRCA26), CHANGE Illinois issued the following statement:

For our coalition, the fight for fair maps has been a long game, building up public and legislative support through the 2021 redistricting process. We certainly hoped to get the Fair Maps Amendment passed out of the General Assembly and onto the 2018 ballot and while it’s fallen short this time around, we’re proud of what we achieved. As a result of our work, the gubernatorial candidates from both parties not only voiced support for independent maps, they also went on the record and pledged to veto any gerrymandered map in office. The Fair Maps Amendment received bipartisan support in both chambers, gaining 28 cosponsors in the Illinois House and the support of two-thirds of the Illinois Senate.

For the remainder of the year, our coalition will be focusing on public education around the 2018 election and holding the winners’ feet to the fire. Redistricting reform isn’t an issue that’s going away. Our work in 2018 will serve as a critical starting point for next year’s push. We can only build up from here.

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Fair Maps Amendment Reaches 36 Senate Cosponsors, the Three-Fifths Threshold Required to Pass

If called for a vote, the Senate version of the Fair Maps Amendment would pass based on the number of cosponsors alone

 

SPRINGFIELD (May 3, 2018) – Today, Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) signed on as the 36th Senate cosponsor of the Fair Maps Amendment (SJRCA26).

This means that if the Fair Maps Amendment was called for a vote on the Senator floor, the amendment would reach the minimum number of votes needed to pass. The Illinois State Constitution requires legislative constitutional amendments like SJRCA26 to pass with a three-fifths majority. In the Illinois Senate, this three-fifths number required for passage is 36 Senators voting yes.

“Reaching 36 cosponsors is an important milestone for the Fair Maps Amendment. It is a clear demonstration that an overwhelming majority of the Illinois Senate wants to end gerrymandering.” said Jeff Raines, Communication Director at CHANGE Illinois. “It’s time to call the Fair Maps Amendment for a vote.”

The Fair Maps Amendment is modeled after a 2016 proposal drafted by then-Rep. Jack Franks, which was passed out of the House with 105 “yes” votes.

The current list of Senate cosponsors of the Fair Maps Amendment includes:
Senators Julie A. Morrison, Heather A. Steans, Andy Manar, David Koehler, Laura M. Murphy, Jim Oberweis, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Melinda Bush, Daniel Biss, Chris Nybo, Dale A. Righter, Dan McConchie, Cristina Castro, Michael Connelly, Ira I. Silverstein, Karen McConnaughay, William E. Brady, Paul Schimpf, Jason A. Barickman, Sue Rezin, Neil Anderson, Dale Fowler, John F. Curran, Chuck Weaver, Jil Tracy, Thomas Cullerton, Bill Cunningham, Scott M. Bennett, Steve Stadelman, Dave Syverson, Chapin Rose, Pamela J. Althoff, Steven M. Landek, Tim Bivins, Tom Rooney ,and Kyle McCarter.

The deadline to pass the Fair Maps Amendment out of both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in order to appear on the November 2018 ballot is Sunday, May 6th.

The Fair Maps Amendment has been endorsed by: Asian-Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago, Better Government Association, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, Campaign Legal Center, CHANGE Illinois, Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Farm Bureau, League of Women Voters Illinois, NAACP Chicago – South Side Branch, Small Business Advocacy Council, Union League Club of Chicago, and Unite America – Chicago chapter.

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Fair Maps Amendment Lead Sponsors Julie Morrison, Ryan Spain Push for Movement on Legislation

 

Morrison Gets Senate Executive Cmte Subject Matter Hearing Scheduled; Spain Files Discharge Petition for Fair Maps Amendment

 
SPRINGFIELD (April 11, 2018) – Today, the lead House and Senate sponsors of the Fair Maps Amendment (HJRCA43/SJRCA26), Representative Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) and Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) have taken actions to force movement on the amendment.

Sen. Morrison has called on the Senate leadership and succeed in scheduling the Senate version of the Fair Maps Amendment, SJRCA26, a subject matter hearing with the Senate Executive Committee’s Election Law Subcommittee. The hearing has been scheduled for next Wednesday, April 18th at 3pm.

Meanwhile in the state house, Rep. Spain has filed a discharge petition to force HJRCA43 out of the House Rules Committee into the Election & Campaign Finance Committee.

“It is inspiring to see Rep. Spain and Sen. Morrison show such principled leadership and courage in the fight for fair maps,” stated Jeff Raines, Communications Director of CHANGE Illinois. “We hope every member of the Illinois General Assembly will join Sen. Morrison and Rep. Spain against gerrymandering by calling for a floor vote on the Fair Maps Amendment.”

Partner organizations from the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative have scheduled a lobby day for the same day as the Senate subject matter hearing, April 18th, and will be meeting with members of the House and Senate to add additional cosponsors to the Fair Maps Amendment.

The bipartisan Fair Maps Amendment currently has 16 cosponsors in the House and 9 in the Senate.

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Maryland Supreme Court Case Should Remind Us All That Both Parties Gerrymander, Both Responsible for Broken System

 
CHICAGO (March 27, 2018) – The Supreme Court has now heard two gerrymandering cases this term. Both cases consider the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering – the first, a Republican gerrymander from Wisconsin (Gill v. Whitford) and the second, today’s Democratic gerrymandering from Maryland (Benisek v. Lamone).

CHANGE Illinois is encouraged by the United States Supreme Court’s willingness to enter the political thicket and hear arguments on Republican and Democratic gerrymandering cases this term.

Based on today’s arguments at the Supreme Court, it is clear that the nine justices are being very considerate on how to address the issue of partisan gerrymandering.

If the Court establishes a new constitutional standard prohibiting partisan gerrymandering, this would apply nationwide and could be the necessary impetus to encourage Illinois lawmakers to finally change the state’s flawed redistricting process.

“The Maryland gerrymandering case is an all-too-familiar story for Illinois,” stated CHANGE Illinois spokesperson, Jeff Raines. “Instead of an independent commission system that puts the needs of the people first, we have this absurd scenario in which the fox is in charge of the henhouse.”

CHANGE Illinois is one of the leading organizations pushing for the Fair Maps Amendment (HJRCA43/SJRCA26), an Illinois constitutional amendment that would establish an independent citizens commission to draw the maps instead of partisan politicians. The Fair Maps has been introduced by Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria), Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

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CHANGE Illinois Denounces U.S. Dept. of Commerce Decision to Add “Citizenship Question” to 2020 Census

A Blatant Attempt to Politicize the Census

 
CHICAGO (March 26, 2018) – Today, John Sirek, Interim Executive Director of CHANGE Illinois, had this to say about the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census:

“The decision to politicize the census by asking for individuals’ citizenship status will only impede our ability to have a full and fair count of every person living in our state and nation,” said John Sirek. “Instead of an accurate count, the citizenship question will discourage immigrant and other communities from completing the Census form causing these communities, and the State of Illinois as a whole, to be undercounted. This undercount will further exacerbate the problem of gerrymandered districts and further diminish the opportunity for fair representation and resource allocation at the local, state and federal levels.”

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Democratic Senators Morrison, Steans Joins Redistricting Reform Fight

Sen. Morrison files Senate version of the Fair Maps Amendment with Sen. Steans as Chief Co-Sponsor

 
SPRINGFIELD (March 14, 2018) – Today, Senators Julie Morrison and Heather Steans filed the Fair Maps Amendment in the Illinois Senate as Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 26 (SJRCA26).

SJRCA26 is identical to the amendment Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) filed in the Illinois House (HJRCA43). The Fair Maps Amendment is modeled after former Rep. Jack Franks’ proposed amendment, which received 105 “yes” votes in the Illinois House in 2016.

“Thank you, Senator Julie Morrison and Senator Heather Steans for standing up against gerrymandering. To the voters of Illinois, the fight for fair maps has always been a battle between the people and the politicians, not between Democrats and Republicans,” said Brad McMillan, Co-Chair of CHANGE Illinois and the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative. “The Fair Maps Amendment has the support of members in both parties, which is a clear indication that this amendment can be the vehicle for change Illinois voters need.”

“Politicians should not be involved with picking which voters they represent. A majority of Illinois residents agree that this process must change,” said Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield). “My proposal would go a long way towards reestablishing trust and credibility with the General Assembly and ensure the public once again feels like they are being represented within their government.”

“Illinois residents should choose who represents them, not the other way around,” Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) added. “Under this fair maps proposal, Illinois’ legislative boundaries would be drawn by a commission appointed by members of the Illinois Supreme Court rather than the General Assembly or governor. This proposal aims to restore citizens’ trust in their government and implement a more democratic process.”

Illinois voters overwhelmingly favor redistricting reform. A recent Paul Simon Institute poll found that 72 percent of Illinois voters support turning over the redistricting process to an independent commission.

To address gerrymandering, HJRCA43/SJRCA26 changes the current redistricting process by doing the following:

1. Removes politicians and sitting legislators from drawing their own districts

2. Establishes an independent redistricting commission that must be demographically, politically, and geographically representative of our state to draw our Congressional and General Assembly maps

3. Protects the constitutional rights of communities of color to elect a representative of their choosing

4. Adds sunlight and transparency by requiring the release of all communications made by the Commission as well as any data used to create and propose any and all maps

5. Gives the public the opportunity to participate in the process by requiring at least 30 public hearings on the maps before a final vote is taken

Key differences between HJRCA43/SJRCA26 and the 2016 amendment proposed by Rep. Franks include:

HJRCA43/SJRCA26
Commission Make-Up: 16-Member Indep. Commission, with 2 from each judicial district. Political make-up: 7 Dems, 7 Repubs. with 2 Independents (tiebreaker commissioner would also be an Independent). Chosen by two justices of the IL Supreme Court

Scope of amdt: Legislative & Congressional redistricting addressed

Public participation: 20 public hearings before maps are proposed, 10 after

Timeline for approved maps: Maps adopted by Aug. 1, Tiebreaker Commission maps by Sept. 1

OTHER ADDITIONS:

Broadening participation: Hearings must give opportunity for racial & language minorities to participate, request use of technology, e.g. live-streaming, to engage broader audience

Additional Transparency: All Commission communications & data used to create maps are released to the public & the Commission will be subject to FOIA

Financials: Commissioners will be compensated & will receive appropriations for staff, office space, travel, etc.

2016 Franks Amendment

Commission: 8-Member Indep. Commission, with 1 from each judicial district. Chosen by two justices of the IL Supreme Court

Scope: Only addresses legislative redistricting

Public participation: 15 public hearings before maps are proposed, 5 after

Timeline: Maps adopted by June 30, year after the Census for maps, Aug. 1 if tiebreaker commission is needed

You can read the full text of the Fair Maps Amendment here.

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February 26, 2018

Comprehensive Redistricting Reform Amendment Filled in IL General Assembly

HJRCA 43 is a constitutional amendment that would address legislative and Congressional gerrymandering

 
SPRINGFIELD – Today, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment (HJRCA) 43 was filed to amend the Illinois Constitution in order to put an end to Congressional and legislative gerrymandering in the Land of Lincoln.

CHANGE Illinois, as a part of the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative, has spent the last four months drafting this amendment and worked with Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) to get it filed in the Illinois General Assembly. HJRCA 43 is modeled after former Rep. Jack Franks’ proposed amendment: HJRCA 58 which received 105 yes votes from the Illinois House in 2016.

“Our redistricting reform amendment establishes an independent redistricting commission to draw Illinois’ maps and make it clear that the public not politicians should control the process,” said Brad McMillan, Co-Chair of CHANGE Illinois and the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative. “With this amendment now filed, Illinois voters around the state can ask their members of the Illinois House and Senate if they’ll support this specific, concrete solution to end gerrymandering.”

“An independent and transparent process for redistricting is critical for the protecting the core principles of our democracy. For too long, politicians have chosen their voters instead of voters choosing their elected officials,” said Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria), Chief Sponsor of HJRCA 43. “Changing the way we draw legislative maps is one of the most meaningful reforms we can make to increase fairness in Illinois. This amendment will have a lasting impact on Illinoisans’ trust in their government for decades to come.”   

The Illinois Redistricting Collaborative is currently approaching General Assembly members that co-sponsored HJRCA 58 in 2016 to cosponsor this amendment.

To address gerrymandering, HJRCA 43 changes the current redistricting process by doing the following:
1. Removes politicians and sitting legislators from drawing their own districts
2. Establishes an independent redistricting commission that must be demographically, politically, and geographically representative of our state to draw our Congressional and General Assembly maps
3. Adds sunlight and transparency by requiring the release of all communications made by the Commission as well as any data used to create and propose any and all maps
4. Gives the public the opportunity to participate in the process by requiring at least 30 public hearings on the maps before a final vote is taken

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January 24, 2018

Majority of Candidates Submit Gerrymandering Survey Responses Supporting Fair Maps

 
CHICAGO – As of last night’s survey deadline, the majority of candidates for Governor, including Democratic frontrunners: J.B. Pritzker, Daniel Biss, and Chris Kennedy, submitted responses to the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative’s 18-question gerrymandering survey.

Organizations involved in the crafting of the survey included: CHANGE Illinois, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago, the Better Government Association, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause Illinois, League of Women Voters Illinois, NAACP Chicago – South Side Branch, the Small Business Advocacy Council, and the Chicago Chapter of the Centrist Project.

The survey asked candidates specific questions about gerrymandering such as if they would support creating an independent redistricting commission to take over the map-making process, if they would actively advocate for a constitutional amendment to be passed by the Illinois General Assembly and sent to the voters, and supporting key changes to the process to increase transparency and public participation.

You can find each gubernatorial candidate’s response to the survey posted at: www.changeil.org/2018survey.

The winner of the 2018 governor’s race will play a major role in the next redistricting process in 2021. That governor will be responsible for approving or vetoing the maps.

“Getting them on the record in support of fair maps – an issue that 72 percent of Illinois voters support – was the easy part,” said John Sirek, Interim Executive Director of CHANGE Illinois. “Now, we need to keep the issue of gerrymandering front and center in their campaigns and beyond. If elected Governor, how will they see to it that Illinois enacts meaningful redistricting reform ahead of the next map-drawing process?”

Members of the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative are currently drafting a legislative constitutional amendment and have begun reaching out to allies in the Illinois General Assembly. The collaborative also plans to send a similar gerrymandering survey to members and candidates for the General Assembly in the coming weeks.

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

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January 9, 2018

Advocates Kick Off Next Redistricting Reform Effort with Gerrymandering Survey Sent to Candidates for Governor

 

Ahead of March Primary, Candidates in Both Parties Given Opportunity to Demonstrate to Voters Their Commitment to Fair & Independent Maps

 
CHICAGO – Today, CHANGE Illinois, as a member of the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative, sent an 18-question gerrymandering survey to all the candidates running to be governor of Illinois. Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago, the Better Government Association, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause Illinois, League of Women Voters Illinois, NAACP Chicago – South Side Branch, Small Business Advocacy Council, and the Chicago Chapter of the Centrist Project have joined CHANGE Illinois in this effort elicit the candidates’ views on gerrymandering.

The survey asks candidates whether they support ending the practice of gerrymandering, an established political practice in Illinois designed to protect incumbents from competitive elections.

The gerrymandering survey response deadline is Tuesday, January 23rd. Each gubernatorial candidate’s response to the survey will be shared with the press and the public and posted online here.

“Before Illinois voters head to polls on March 20th, they deserve to know where each candidate – Republican and Democratic alike – stands on gerrymandering and what they would do to support fair maps in office,” stated John Sirek, Interim Executive Director of CHANGE Illinois.

“The winner of the 2018 gubernatorial election will preside over the next redistricting process in 2021,” added Sirek. “Will they support the status quo and just rubber stamp whatever maps are put in front of them or will they demand additional transparency and support independent maps to put Illinois voters first?”

This gerrymandering survey to get gubernatorial candidates on-the-record is just the first step in addressing the need for redistricting reform.

CHANGE Illinois and its partner organizations, in the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative, plan on using the 2018 elections as an opportunity to raise public awareness about gerrymandering. Candidates (and current official holders) for the Illinois General Assembly will receive a similar survey in the weeks ahead.

In the coming weeks, Illinois Redistricting Collaborative members will begin working with legislative allies in the Illinois General Assembly to draft a legislative constitutional amendment aimed at creating a fairer map-making process.

A recent Paul Simon Institute poll showed similar overwhelming support here in Illinois for redistricting reform – with 72 percent of Illinoisans supporting an independent commission to draw Illinois’ district lines.

Recent elections results have shown the harm that gerrymandering has done to Illinois voter choice at the ballot box. In a study of Illinois’ 2014 elections, nearly 60 percent of state house seats were uncontested and even greater number of state senate seats (63 percent) were similarly uncontested.

This 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 either no choice at all on the ballot or a choice between a “sure winner” and a “sure loser.” 


Click here to read the full gerrymandering survey as well as the cover letter sent to each of the candidates.

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January 4, 2018

Just Democracy Illinois advocates applaud end of sham voter fraud commission

 

Urge other states to follow Illinois’ example, protect elections while reducing barriers to voting

 

CHICAGO — The following is a statement from Just Democracy Illinois, a nonpartisan voting rights coalition, on President Trump’s decision to disband the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity:

“Just Democracy Illinois is pleased to see this presidentially-sanctioned witch hunt come to an end. This commission was flawed from the start. It was premised on a baseless claim that ‘millions’ of people illegally voted in the November 2016 election. It sought to obtain sensitive personal information about Illinois voters and threatened to expose that data to numerous privacy and security risks. Just Democracy will remain vigilant as federal officials and advisors continue to threaten the rights of our communities, including immigrant citizens, and other eligible voters.

“When the Commission issued overly broad demands for personal data of voters in 2017, Just Democracy Illinois immediately urged the Illinois State Board of Elections to deny the intrusive requests and debunk harmful myths of widespread voter fraud. After evaluating the requests and analyzing the facts, the bipartisan State Board denied the Commission’s requests and concluded the following about voter fraud: ‘The suspected instances we found equate to a fraud level of a couple thousandths of a single percent of the votes cast in the state.’

“As a nation, we still have a lot of work to do to protect our democracy and secure access to the ballot box. Across the country, states are passing laws that create unnecessary barriers to the ballot, which have negatively impacted turnout and intimidated voters from exercising their constitutional rights. Some of these policies intentionally disenfranchise communities through acts like purging eligible citizens from the voter rolls, while other states are stubbornly maintaining outdated registration systems that must be modernized.

“Just Democracy Illinois is proud that Illinois is taking the opposite approach and improving fairness of our elections. In recent years, the Land of Lincoln has passed laws to expand early voting, and to allow voters to register online or even at the polls. In August, Illinois unanimously passed a bipartisan Automatic Voter Registration law, which, once implemented, could add more than one million eligible Illinoisans to the voter rolls.

“To keep our election systems secure, prevent potential fraud and mis-registration, and reduce the barriers that decrease voter turnout, Just Democracy Illinois encourages states to instead follow Illinois’ bipartisan leadership on voting rights by passing legislation like Automatic Voter Registration.”

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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November 20, 2017

At Public Hearing, State Board of Elections Applauds Efforts on Automatic Voter Registration

 

Just Democracy Illinois coalition members provide testimony encouraging on-time implementation ahead of 2018 elections

 

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE) held a hearing Monday – to a full room – to receive public comments on the implementation of the new automatic voter registration law (Public Act 100-46).

Illinois will be the 10th state (plus Washington, D.C.) to implement automatic voter registration (AVR) into law, and is the first Midwestern state to do so.

The law modernizes and reforms current registration laws so that whenever an eligible Illinois citizen applies for, updates, or renews a driver’s license or state ID, they will be automatically registered to vote at their new address, unless they choose to opt out. AVR creates a similar program for other social service and public assistance agencies, making Illinois’ law the farthest reaching AVR law in the country.

Members of the Just Democracy Illinois coalition testified in Springfield and in Chicago this morning to offer assistance and expertise in urging the SBE to work with other state agencies to implement the AVR law on time. Several coalition members expressed specific community needs to ensure the new process would maximize efforts to register voters of color, non-native English speakers, and young voters encouraging the Board to get additional community input throughout their implementation planning. “There’s value in a broad stakeholder process,” said Abraham Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG.

“Illinois lags behind the country when it comes to voter participation by young people and voters of color,” said Ami Gandhi of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “If we implement AVR correctly, we have the potential to close these disparities and reach communities that have historically been excluded from our elections.”

Jay Young, the Political Director of Common Cause Illinois, encouraged the SBE to “think of the enthusiastic support for Automatic Voter Registration as a resource” to be called upon to overcome obstacles in the implementation process.

In submitted written testimony, Just Democracy Illinois reinforced with the SBE the goals of the new law:

For Illinois to have a more complete and accurate voter list,
To keep our elections secure by preventing the potential for the inadvertent registration of non-citizens,
To lower barriers for young voters, communities of color, and other under-registered demographics to register to vote and expand ballot access to encourage more participation at the polls,
And to maximize new voter registrations and voter registration updates.

The law has a mandatory implementation date of July 1, 2018 for the Secretary of State’s Department of Drivers’ Services. Other state agencies responsible for implementing AVR, including the Departments of Employment Security, Natural Resources, Financial & Professional Regulation, and Human Services, have an additional year (July 1, 2019) to comply with implementation.

“The 2018 elections will be a huge motivation for new voter registrations and registration updates,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago and Chair of the Just Democracy Illinois coalition. “It is imperative that the State Board uses every tool in its toolbox — including assistance from the Just Democracy Illinois coalition — to obtain the necessary resources to implement this law on-time and not keep voters from voting in November because of a preventable delay.”

AVR has a major positive impact on under-registered communities. After instituting AVR, Oregon saw a six percent increase in turnout among young voters and had registration rates among voters of color increase by 26 points, from 53 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2016, according to the Alliance for Youth Action.

In response to Just Democracy Illinois’ oral comments and testimony, Chairman William J. Cadigan called for a round of applause for the AVR’s unanimous, bipartisan passage in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly (passing the House 115-0 and the Senate 55-0). Chairman Cadigan also noted that they would hold another public hearing after the March 20th primary elections next year. To close out the topic, Cadigan stated that the SBE was currently working to submit a supplemental appropriations request to the General Assembly to ensure the effective implementation of AVR. Lance Gough, Executive Director of Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, also urged the State Board of Elections to advocate for proper funding for AVR.

In recent years, Illinois has passed additional laws to improve registration rates and increase ballot access by extending early voting time periods, as well as implementing online and same-day registration. AVR is just the latest step Illinois has taken to be a national leader on voting rights.

For social service and public assistance agencies implementation, the Just Democracy Illinois gave the following recommendations in submitted written testimony in preparation for today’s hearing:

Regularly soliciting and incorporating input from community members who interface with these agencies, including communities of color, about topics such as service applications, interactions with agency personnel, and other issues critical to the success of successful AVR implementation at agencies;
Assigning a voter registration coordinator for each agency and a coordinator for each local office;
Ensuring that proper training is taking place; and
Requiring a comprehensive oversight system for compliance.

Just Democracy Illinois is a broad-based and diverse coalition that works to protect and promote the value of a single vote, no matter the geographic, racial, ethnic, or party affiliation of the voter. The Just Democracy Illinois steering committee includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago, CHANGE Illinois, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Chicago Votes, Common Cause Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, and Illinois Public Interest Research Group. The Just Democracy campaign for Automatic Voter Registration was endorsed by a diverse collection of over 65 organizations from around Illinois.

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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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