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Senate Dems: Voting access should be a top priority for Illinois

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Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) vowed Friday to continue working to make voting easier and more accessible in Illinois, despite the governor’s veto of bipartisan legislation that would have made Illinois the fifth state to enact automatic voter registration.

“Automatic voter registration was one of the few issues that brought Democrats and Republicans together in both houses of the legislature this spring. I am disappointed the governor chose to veto this very good, very important measure,” Manar said.

“The governor talks a lot about the need to streamline bureaucracy and cut government waste. Automatically registering voters would have allowed us to do exactly that. Although this veto is a setback, I will continue to work with advocates to ensure voting access is a top priority in Illinois.”

Manar was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 250, which would have initiated an opt-out voter registration system instead of the current opt-in system. Under the proposal, eligible Illinois voters would have been automatically registered to vote when they visited the Illinois secretary of state and other similar state agencies for services.

The system would have curbed redundant paperwork, streamlined a government function, helped the state to clean up its voter rolls and saved money for taxpayers.

The measure garnered bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature this spring. The Senate voted 42-16 for the legislation, and the House voted 86-30 for it.

Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) expressed disappointment Friday in the governor’s veto.

“Illinois has taken significant steps the past few years to make the franchise more accessible and more convenient for voters. Our efforts began with early voting and continued with online voter registration, vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration. I was pleased to be an ambassador for all of these measures,” Harmon said.

“Automatic registration is a natural and logical extension of our already successful efforts to modernize and simplify the voting process in Illinois," Harmon continued. "I am disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I will continue to be a champion for commonsense measures like automatic voter registration.”

“Recent federal court rulings in Wisconsin, Texas and elsewhere have reinforced that voting restrictions – such as ‘voter ID laws’ – that disproportionately block access to the polls by minorities, seniors and young people are unconstitutional, no matter how hard their proponents try to disguise them as fraud prevention tactics,” Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16) said. “Here in Illinois, members of both parties are endeavoring to forge a different path, one that empowers all who are entitled to vote, and I am greatly disappointed that Governor Rauner has decided to stand in the way.”

Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said Friday he will continue to champion efforts to expand access to voting.

“I am troubled that Gov. Rauner chose to veto a measure that had bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature because of its promise for streamlining government, cutting costs for taxpayers and modernizing one aspect of the voting process,” Biss said.

“At a time when things are so polarized in Illinois government, it’s important that lawmakers and the governor find issues we can agree on and act on them. If we can’t agree on this – the importance of eliminating barriers to voting and saving taxpayers a little money in the process – then I worry that there are very few things we’ll ever agree on.”

Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) released the following statement:

“Minority groups throughout our history have fought for the right to vote, and we should be continuing that legacy of promoting participation in our democracy. I will remain in support of this measure and hope to see it come to fruition in the near future.”

Four states, including California, Oregon, West Virginia and Vermont, implemented automatic voter registration systems and have realized significant savings for local and state governments.

“Voting in America today is supposed to be a fundamental right enjoyed by all citizens,” Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) said. “Years of hard work guaranteed that discriminatory laws and barriers were broken down to give women, people of color and lower-income voters the chance to have their voices heard. We should be working to advance these policies, making voting simple, easy and accessible for all. I am disappointed in the governor’s veto today and am hoping he is willing to sit down with the General Assembly and work on an agreement to make Illinois a leader in voting accessibility.”

Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) issued the following statement:

“Automatic voter registration has been implemented successfully in other states and been proven to decrease barriers to voting and save taxpayer dollars. That’s why the governor’s veto is disappointing. Our democracy is stronger when we make it more convenient for people to get registered to vote and have a direct say in who represents them. While the veto is a setback, I am hopeful that advocates of the bill can continue to work with the governor on legislation he can agree to that would bring automatic voter registration to Illinois.”

Under the plan that was vetoed, when a qualified voter provides all of the information necessary for voter registration to a government agency, he or she would automatically be registered to vote. Voters who wish to opt out of automatic voter registration could do so.

"I’m hopeful to see revised legislation in the coming months the governor can agree upon. Increasing youth voter participation will allow a necessary voice in our political system,” said State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), a career advocate for youth rights. “Making it easier for residents to vote, especially young people, is important and should supported.”