- Published: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 03:27 PM
As lawmakers around the country propose new ways to restrict voters’ access to the polls, State Senator Andy Manar is determined to expand access in Illinois, simplify voter registration, clean up the voter rolls and save money for taxpayers.
Manar (D-Bunker Hill) has re-introduced commonsense legislation to bring automatic voter registration to Illinois. Last year, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the effort even though it had bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature.
“If we’re looking for ways to transform and modernize state government, voter registration is an excellent place to begin,” Manar said. “We have addressed the concerns the governor outlined in his veto message from last year, and there is absolutely no reason why this measure shouldn’t sail through the Legislature, to the governor’s desk and become state law.”
Senate Bill 1933 would establish an automatic voter registration system in Illinois by July 1, 2018.
Under the system, qualified voters would be automatically registered to vote when they visit the Illinois secretary of state and other state agencies for services. Voters would be able to opt out of the system if they wish. A series of checks would ensure no one is registered to vote that should not be.
Illinois currently has an opt-in voter registration system in which adults who are 18 or older must find, fill out and submit a voter registration form to an appropriate government agency. Voters frequently forget to update their voter registrations when they move, change marital status or go to college, causing confusion at the polls and inaccuracies on the state’s voter rolls.
Automatically registering voters when they do business with the state enables government to do away with redundant paperwork, streamline bureaucracy and be more cost effective for taxpayers.
Senate Bill 1933 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee on Wednesday.
Illinois ranks 23rd in the nation for percentage of registered voters. About 9.7 million Illinoisans are 18 are older, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, but only 7.5 million are registered to vote. An estimated 1 in 3 unregistered voters are people who moved but failed to register to vote at their new address.
Seven states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia have adopted automatic voter registration. The Nevada legislature this week sent an automatic voter registration measure to the governor.
Manar this month was presented with a 2017 Champion of Democracy award from Common Cause Illinois for his efforts to advance automatic voter registration, fair funding for public schools and civil rights in Illinois.
“I am honored and humbled to be recognized by Common Cause,” Manar said. “It’s so important that we work together to make sure everyone’s voices are heard and that government works for the people, not the other way around. These are fights that are worth fighting, and as long as these problems exist, I’ll be in there fighting.”