Letter: Gov. Rauner must sign auto voter registration act
Time is running out for you to sign Automatic Voter Registration, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will increase the number of participants in our democracy – by up to 2 million citizens – and modernize our state’s administrative processes, all while keeping costs down. This is the kind of legislation that will help Illinois more fully step into the 21st century. Because of this, we urge you to sign the bill. In doing so, you’ll be announcing to the state and the rest of the country that Illinois is taking necessary steps to ensure our elections system is accessible, modern, and efficient for both administrator and voter alike.
Automatic voter registration is a reform that’s sweeping the nation – and Illinois could help lead the way for others. So far, Oregon, California, Vermont, West Virginia and Connecticut have adopted it. If you sign SB250 by August 12, you’ll make Illinois the sixth state to join this set. You’d also be introducing a law that’s first of its kind. Whereas the other five states now require departments of motor vehicles to automatically register individuals who are eligible (and don’t choose to opt out of the process), Illinois would offer the same service at DMV offices plus a number of other agencies, including the Departments of Aging, Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services. With this innovation, we’ll be one step ahead of other states and establish ourselves as a leader across the country.
Illinois has already moved in the right direction by beginning to modernize our voter registration system. In 2013, we passed online voter registration, enabling eligible voters to register from the convenience of their computers. A year later, following a pilot program in Chicago, the state extended early voting hours and adopted same-day registration, allowing eligible voters to both register and cast ballots on the same day. Both reforms were met with great success. In Champaign County, for example, at this most recent primary, we saw turnout increase by 150 percent from the 2008 presidential election. That’s a huge jump! Imagine what we could see if our government agencies began providing the service to those 2 million still unregistered voters.
We know you’re worried about the budget, but voter registration modernization – especially in the long run – saves the state money. Some states that have adopted more modern systems have already crunched the numbers. In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, administrators previously paid 83 cents for every paper registration processed; now that they’ve switched to an electronic system at their DMVs, they pay 3 cents per form. The more modernized our system, the more cost savings for our state. And the more accessible the process becomes for the voter. We consider that a win-win situation.
During this election season, we’ve seen a lot of bitter divisiveness in this country. It worries us that this country is as partisan as it is right now. But that doesn’t have to last, and there are steps we can take to move the country and state closer together. When legislators and executives here at home unite to pass measures that are good for all citizens – no matter their party – we in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, come closer to the ideal of a state that works for all. As Governor, you could be the one to get us there.
Brian Gladstein, Executive Director
Common Cause Illinois