As many states implement laws aimed at suppressing voter participation, the Illinois legislature last week unanimously passed a bipartisan automatic voter registration bill. The bill now advances towards the desk of Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner triggering flashbacks to 2016 when a similar bill passed both chambers—86-30 in the House, 50-7 in the Senate—but was vetoed over concerns of so-called voter fraud.
The 2017 bill, SB 1933, would automatically register eligible individuals who have been entered into any number of state databases, such as the DMV, unless they opt out. The original bill was changed in order to increase the chance of Rauner’s approval and now includes a new requirement that the applicant confirms they are eligible to vote. Chicago Tribune reported last month that supporters contend the bill would save money and streamline the registration process, in turn, increasing Illinois voter turnout.
With Rauner’s Signature, Illinois would join the ranks of Alaska, California, Oregon, Colorado, Georgia, West Virginia, Connecticut, Vermont, and the District of Columbia as the first to implement an automatic voter registration system, with more soon to follow. In 2017, over twenty states have introduced legislation advocating for implementation of automatic voter registration.
The Illinois bill and others like it are widely supported by groups like the Just Democracy Coalition and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. Automatic voter registration (AVR) would expand access to voting, make voting rolls more accurate and secure (as a result of more frequent updating), and save taxpayer money as a result of the modernized efficiency. Through the implementation of electronic registration, states like Washington saw a doubling in voter registration transactions, while still saving close to $200,000.
Automatic Voter Registration has paved the way to empowering the most politically marginalized for some time, and is currently gaining speed throughout state legislatures. The potential of AVR would grant achievable access and voice to those most frequently disenfranchised.
Media Resources: Chicago Tribune 08/12/2016, 05/05/2017, New York Times 12/02/2016, Brennan Center for Justice, Just Democracy Coalition