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Automatic voter registration moves forward in Illinois (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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State Senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill) plan to streamline the voter registration process in Illinois was approved by the Illinois Senate today.

soundcloud pic“The basic information that the secretary of state’s office and other state agencies get on a daily basis is everything an individual needs to register to vote. So, this plan would simply allow for you to begin the voter registration process in the same time it takes to update your license or get a state ID card,”  Manar said. “This plan will help boost voter turnout, save the state money and ensure that every eligible voter in Illinois has the chance to exercise their right.”

Senate Bill 250 would allow for the Secretary of State’s office and similar state agencies to submit eligible voters information to the State Board of Elections when they visit their facilities for services.

This would significantly cut down the time and effort needed to register voters, and eliminate many duplicative steps that exist currently, saving taxpayer dollars.

“We have an opportunity to reduce government duplication and streamline services -- we should take it," said Senate President John Cullerton. "If we can get people registering when they get their drivers’ license, it will dramatically reduce the voter registration costs that are substantial at county and city offices across the state.”

“Illinois is continually recognized as a national leader in voter access and modernization," Cullerton continued. "This policy maintains our leadership. I would hope that the Illinois House would similarly support this important legislation and the governor would sign it into law.”

soundcloud picSenator Don Harmon of Oak Park is an enthusiastic co-sponsor of Senate Bill 250, which would clear the way for the automatic registration of eligible voters in Illinois.

“This is another important step in expanding access to the polls and ensuring Illinois’ voter registration process continues to improve,” Harmon said. “Automatic registration would enable government to save money by bringing efficiency to the process and eliminating duplicative paperwork that government has to process. It also would encourage more people to participate at the polls and make government more reflective of the people it serves.”

"Increasing youth participation will allow a necessary voice to be heard in our political system,” said Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), a career advocate for youth rights. “Today, we’re moving Illinois forward by making it easier for residents, especially young people, to exercise their voice and their right to vote.”

“Voting isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue,” said Senator Iris Y. Martinez, who is co-sponsoring the legislation. “This good government proposal will make it more convenient for people to get registered to vote and participate in the political process.”  

In the 2014 election, only 39.5 percent of eligible Illinois voters cast a ballot. Illinois also lags behind all neighboring states in voter registration for 18 to 24 year-olds.

“There is a clear need for automatic voter registration in Illinois,” Martinez said. “We need to update our outdated system and strive for greater participation in the political process.”

"Voting wasn’t always a fundamental right in this country," said Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields). "So many before us fought and died so that everyone, regardless of wealth, race or social status, could participate in our democracy. We must continue this fight and ensure our laws match our vision to have everyone have their voices heard." 

soundcloud pic“Everyone from President Obama down to the citizens who need to stand in line for hours to exercise their rights as American citizens is calling for this,” said Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora). “This isn’t complicated: If more people are registered, more people will vote. I urge the House and Governor Rauner to make this the law and strengthen the voice of the people.”

Senator Daniel Biss, D-Evanston is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 250.

“This is a great bill for Illinois. It removes duplication and increases the efficiency of state government,” Biss said. “And it will have a positive effect on efforts to combat voter fraud because it will give us a more streamlined registration system and an opportunity to further clean up our voter rolls.”

More importantly, he added, automatically registering people to vote removes a hurdle that citizens should not be forced to clear in order to be active participants in their government.

“There is no bar we should ask people to clear. It doesn’t matter if the requirement is to own property, or to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar, or to figure out where to go to register and what piece of paper to fill out,” he said.

“The only hurdle that it is appropriate to erect is to make sure we have a clean and secure voting system that works on Election Day. Any bar to participation that's higher than that is a violation of our duty to maximize access to the voting booth."

“Under this legislation, the people will have more of a chance to have their voices heard without unnecessary obstacles and will create more safeguards to protect against voter fraud by streamlining the process,” said Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria). “With automatic voter registration we are making it easier for all citizens to join the political process by voting.”

“This is a simple way for us to empower more people to be active in the democratic process,” Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said. “We need to do whatever we can to engage more people and give them the opportunity to exercise their rights.”

“Two million Illinois residents are eligible to participate in our government by voting but are not registered, and they are disproportionately young and minority,” Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) said. “We need their voices in our democracy now, and we should combat confusion and break down senseless barriers to voting.”

“The goal of voter registration is to include every eligible individual, not to create hurdles that do nothing to safeguard the integrity of elections but do much to discourage participation,” Collins said. “Many great men and women in our national history bled, suffered and died to expand the right to vote, and we honor their memory and press on with their work today.”

Statistics have shown currently of all voting-age eligible Illinoisans, 42 percent of black citizens, 57.8 percent of Asian citizens and 33 percent of all females are not registered.