Just Democracy campaign urges Illinois Legislature to pass voting reform package

Online Staff Report

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Just Democracy campaign urges the Illinois Legislature to pass H.B. 105. The legislation, which will likely come to a vote in both chambers Friday, May 30, will make it easier for Illinoisans to vote and register to vote.

If the bill passes, eligible Illinoisans will be able to register or update their voter registration and then vote on Election Day. The Election Day Grace Period Registration option will be available at permanent early voting and grace period registration sites, as well as a number of additional sites added at the discretion of local election authorities.

This legislation will be the first step in the fight for precinct-wide Same Day Registration in Illinois, a measure that could increase voter turnout by as much as 8-12 percent, which includes 150,000 minority voters, if implemented statewide by the next general election.

Currently, Grace Period Registration ends three days prior to an election, which is an unnecessary and an arbitrary deadline.

18,639 ballots were rejected in the 2012 election because the voters were not properly registered, or registered in the wrong jurisdictions or precincts. Countless first-time voters were turned away at the polls,” said Rebecca Reynolds, executive director of Chicago Votes, an organization dedicated to engaging young people in the political process. “Registration deadlines disproportionately disenfranchise mobile populations — traditionally, college students, single moms and low-income communities of color.”

Same Day Registration was pushed into the state agenda this session through the efforts of the Just Democracy campaign, a diverse coalition devoted to increasing electoral access for those in marginalized communities. Just Democracy — which is composed of Asian Americans Advancing Justice; the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law; Chicago Votes; Common Cause Illinois; the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; and the Illinois Public Interest Research Group; delivered more than 3,500 letters, petition signatures, comment cards and letters in support of the measure to legislators.

Kathleen Fernicola, director of Policy and Programming at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said the organization is “working to educate, organize and advocate for Illinois’ Asian American population that has been shut out of the political system.” Fernicola noted that Illinois’ voter turnout rates “demonstrate that too many people in the states are disenfranchised — especially people living in marginalized communities of color.”

Brian Gladstein, director of Programs and Strategy at Common Cause Illinois, said, “We must create a system in which every voter that is eligible to vote is casting their ballot — to ensure we are electing politicians that are serving the needs of everyone.”

Gladstein, and Marissa Liebling of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, will be providing testimony at both the House and Senate hearings for this bill and representing Just Democracy. This testimony will be available upon request for the media or other interested groups.

Just Democracy was instrumental in pushing the bill creating Online Voter registration through the legislature last year, and is helping to oversee its implementation by July 2014.

For more about the Just Democracy campaign, visit www.justdemocracyillinois.org.

Posted May 30, 2014

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