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'Victory for Voting Rights': Illinois Poised to Pass Automatic Voter Registration

It's a "win-win-win" for the state

The move "in the nation's fifth most populous state is a big deal in a year when the media spotlight is focused on new burdens voters will face at the polls in 2016." (Photo: Sandor Weisz/flickr/cc)

In a development heralded as a win for democracy, Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday passed legislation to enact automatic voter registration.

It marks "a landmark victory for voting rights," according to the Brennan Center for Justice's Jonathan Brater, who adds that the move "in the nation's fifth most populous state is a big deal in a year when the media spotlight is focused on new burdens voters will face at the polls in 2016."

The House passed the measure 86-30, and it now heads to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has indicated support for it, saying last month that he was a "big fan of simplifying the voter registration process" and "very supportive of everybody who should be voting, get them registered and get them voting."

The Land of Lincoln would become the sixth state to have automatic voter registration, joining California, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.

The measure was sponsored by State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who previously said, "We should not be content with only having a small fraction of eligible Illinoisans voting, we should strive for 100 percent."

As Brater explains,

Automatic voter registration is a simple but transformative policy tweak:  instead of opting in to being on the voter rolls, eligible citizens opt out. For example, when an eligible individual visits the DMV, the information she provides for her driver’s license is automatically and electronically passed on to election officials. This increases registration rates, and cuts down on errors and other inefficiencies from old-fashioned, ink-and-paper registration.

Calling it "win-win-win" for the state, Abraham Scarr, director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), argued in an op-ed for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that automatic voter registration "will strengthen our democracy, increase the accuracy and integrity of our voter lists, and save taxpayers money."

The development in Illinois comes as a new poll shows that 90 percent of voters lack confidence in the country's political system and amid a widespread attack on voting rights. 

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