House works on auto voter registration bill

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

The state House is expected to amend a measure to automatically register people to vote when they interact with a state agency because of concerns shared by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said his legislation, Senate Bill 1933, which has been in the works for a couple of years, shows bipartisan solutions are possible.

“Democrats and Republicans can work together on an issue that oftentimes just goes right down the partisan hole of the legislature,” Manar said.

The bill passed unanimously Friday.

A similar measure passed onto the governor’s desk last year but was vetoed, with Gov. Bruce Rauner offering up suggestions to make it comply with federal law and to combat potential voter fraud.

The new bill addresses some of the suggestions but there are still concerns from the Illinois State Board of Elections.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she appreciates “that there’s an agreement that there’ll be some work in the House to alleviate some of the concerns that the State Board of Elections has.”

Elections board General Counsel Ken Menzel said the board supports the overall concept, but they’re worried about the implementation date of January 2019.

“We’re a little leery of committing to something like that because we don’t know about the funding, and our [information technology] people haven’t been working with these other agencies’ IT people about getting their systems to be able to give us the data we need in a format we can use to fit into the state database,” Menzel said.

Other election board concerns include what the elections board’s liability is when an agency deems an individual ineligible.

“We’re kind of fuzzy as to exactly what we’re supposed to do with it, and we’re not really keen on the idea of us having to pick up the ball and chase somebody down when it was the Secretary of State’s determination as to the paperwork that was presented there that there was some problems with their qualifications,” Menzel said.

A third issue Menzel raised deals with classifying what private information should be withheld from voter lists.

“A good example is a domestic violence abuse victim,” Menzel said. If the domestic abuse victim goes to a shelter, “there’s protections to prevent the abusive spouse from finding her, but should she register to vote, the registration address goes into the voter database. This bill would create a mechanism for keeping that personal information for that person private, but as the law currently stands, we don’t know who the people are who are in that program so we wouldn’t know whose addresses to keep private.”

Menzel said the elections board is confident its concerns will get addressed with a House amendment.

Both chambers are back in session this week.

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