Automatic voter registration initiative becomes law (VIDEO)

avr signed 082817

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois this morning became the 10th state to enact automatic voter registration, a good-government and voting-rights initiative advanced by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

Manar and numerous advocates were on hand as Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law the measure, which establishes a more modern system by which eligible adults can have their voter registration information updated automatically whenever they interact with certain state agencies.

Manar said automatic voter registration is a big deal for Illinois and an initiative worth celebrating, particularly as other states seem intent to find new ways to limit people’s access to the polls.

“We in Illinois are pushing back on that. While others are trying to close the doors to the ballot box, we are opening those doors,” he said.

“This bill makes absolute sense. It will save government millions of dollars once it’s fully implemented. It will improve the accuracy of our voting rolls. It does all sorts of things we claim we want to do in Springfield. But most of all, it removes barriers for individuals to put their fingerprints on their democracy.”

An estimated 1 million new eligible voters will be added to the voter rolls in Illinois. Under the new law, people will be able to opt out of being registered to vote if they wish.

Manar thanked Rauner, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, state senators Don Harmon and Jacqueline Y. Collins, grassroots advocates and others for helping to make automatic voter registration a reality. He and Brian Gladstein, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, each noted the bipartisan collaboration that made the measure a success.

“During a time of heightened partisanship fighting in Springfield and across the nation, we have demonstrated that breaking down barriers to the ballot box can be achieved and supported by both democrats and republicans,” Gladstein said. “We must begin restoring faith by our citizens in our democracy, and AVR is a good step in that direction.” 

Illinois joins the following states in enacting automatic voter registration: Oregon, California, Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Vermont, West Virginia, Colorado and Rhode Island.

During Monday’s bill-signing ceremony, several advocates noted the significance of the date, which marks the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. About 250,000 people were present in the nation’s capital that day and heard the speech. They were there to rally for voting rights, equal opportunities for black Americans and for an end to racial segregation and discrimination.

“The right to vote is a foundation of our democratic process," said Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). "This new bipartisan law will encourage more civic engagement and allow more voices to be heard in the legislative process."

“At a time when we're seeing attacks on voting rights at the federal level, I'm proud that Illinois legislators came together and passed a measure to make it easier for eligible citizens to participate in our elections,” Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) said. “Automatic voter registration will remove a barrier to voting that has disproportionately affected minorities, women, seniors and low-income individuals and will help ensure that all eligible Illinoisans are able to participate in our democracy should they so choose.”

“Your vote is your voice, and now more than ever, that voice matters,” Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) said. “This automatic voter registration system will save the state money and save voters time, and it arose from a bipartisan, democratic process. I want to thank all advocates for their tireless work on this issue and the governor for signing this bill. And I call on all of them to start the next conversation: Challenging potential voters to move beyond apathy.”

“We should be doing everything possible to make it easier for eligible citizens to participate in our elections,” Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), chief co-sponsor, said. “Automatically registering eligible voters when they interact with state agencies instead of requiring them to fill out duplicative paperwork is a common-sense reform that removes a barrier to voting and saves taxpayer dollars. I am proud that Illinois lawmakers came together to unanimously support this good-government measure.” 

“Illinois needs to modernize its systems,” Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) said. “Generations of Americans have fought hard for their right to vote.  It is important that we honor their sacrifices by making voting as easy as possible.”

“Decades of hard work have broken down discriminatory laws and barriers that kept women, people of color and lower-income voters from having an equal say in our democracy,” Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) said. “Today, we take another step to ensure voting is simple, accessible and free from interference or fraud.”

“Our election systems are one of the most sacred components of our nation’s democratic system,” Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) said. “This is a testament to our American values. Everyone should be engaged in our election process regardless of political party or belief.  Our veterans and service men and women have and continue put their lives on the line to protect this fundamental right. Out of respect and honor it is our duty to exercise it.”