- Published: Monday, September 26, 2016 05:04 PM
As civic groups throughout Illinois prepare for National Voter Registration Day activities on Tuesday, Senator Andy Manar is reminding people that automatic registration is the best way to ensure all eligible voters are able to have a say in their government.
The Illinois Legislature in May approved automatic voter registration legislation with strong bipartisan support. However, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the proposal in August even though he previously had expressed support for the concept.
“I commend the volunteers and organizations across Illinois that will work Tuesday to spread the word about registering to vote,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat. “However, this type of coordinated effort would be largely unnecessary if Illinois residents enjoyed the benefits of automatic voter registration when they visit the DMV or other state offices.”
Manar was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 250, which would have initiated an opt-out voter registration system in Illinois 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.
States including California, Oregon, West Virginia, Vermont and Connecticut have approved automatic voter registration. Oregon has seen a surge in voter registration and voter participation as a result.
Macon County Clerk Steve Bean supports efforts to establish automatic registration in Illinois. Macon County has about 83,000 residents of voting age but just more than 75,000 registered voters.
“We have a large number of people who move continuously, particularly in Decatur, and it’s difficult to keep their voter information current,” said Bean, who has been Macon County clerk since 1990. “The ballot box should be as easily accessible as possible to 100 percent of our eligible voters. We can achieve that right now – and save our taxpayers some money at the same time – by establishing automatic registration in Illinois.”
Illinois has implemented online voter registration, vote-by-mail and same-day voter registration. Automatic registration is a natural next step, said Manar, who intends to file a motion to override the governor’s veto when the Legislature reconvenes in November.
“There is no excuse for any branch of government – be it a governor, a legislature or a judge – to make it more difficult for Americans to express themselves at the ballot box, but that is exactly what we continue to see across the country,” Manar said. “Illinois can help to set the bar for voter access and efficient government by modernizing and streamlining this important function.”