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New automatic voter registration process begins at DMVs across state

By Cole Lauterbach
Illinois News Network

(ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK) – The process to implement automatic voter registration has begun in Illinois, and while some aspects of the law meant to modernize the state’s voter rolls will be seen immediately, others won’t happen until 2019.

This week is the first time that Illinois Secretary of State employees will be able to check for a customer’s voter registration online. It’s part of a law passed last year that will eventually register an eligible resident to vote any time they interact with the DMV.

Gov. Bruce Rauner used an amendatory veto on an earlier voter registration bill in 2016. Lawmakers used his suggestions in 2017 to pass the automatic voter registration law.

Public Interest Research Group of Illinois Director Abe Scarr said the law he helped craft will modernize the way the state updates its voter rolls.

“It should make the process more seamless and easier for voters to either register to vote or update their information when they visit the DMV,” he said.

Interaction with the DMV still means people have the opportunity to decline to be registered to vote.

In 2019, that process will flip, making Illinois an “opt-out” state.

“If you’re an eligible voter, you’ll be registered to vote unless you take action not to be registered,” Scarr said.

Critics of automatic voting say the new process won’t boost voter participation, but will add more registered voters. They also say it could open up Illinois to voter fraud.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 20 states have introduced legislation to implement or expand automatic registration in 2018. Eight more states had bills carry over from the 2017 legislative session for consideration this year.

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