A Big Week for Winning Democracy at the State and Local Levels

Written by Jay Riestenberg and Scott Zimmerman on June 2, 2017


Voters are ready for big change to ensure our democracy works for everyone. While the Trump administration seems to be constantly retreating from government accountability, many states are leading the way to ensure a government of, by, and for the people. Just this week, action in three states and Washington, D.C. shows that real change is possible.

In Illinois, the legislature unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would allow every eligible citizen to be automatically registered to vote when they do business with state agencies. This type of reform has already passed in several states and has been proven to help make elections more secure and accessible for millions of voters. Illinois’s reform could add more than 1 million new voters to the rolls. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has already announced he plans to sign the bill after vetoing a similar bill last year.

“It’s generally a very toxic political environment and the fact that we’re able to now see an automatic voter registration bill pass with completely unanimous, bipartisan support is hopefully a step in the right direction, not just for our state politics but for other states throughout the Midwest and the country that should really be passing this regardless of partisanship,” said Trevor Gervais, the lead organizer with Common Cause Illinois.

In Rhode Island, the state House followed the Illinois legislature, and on Wednesday unanimously passed its own version of automatic voter registration. The bill now heads to the state Senate and already has the support of Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D). The reform also received strong support from the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Rhode Island, the ACLU of Rhode Island, and many other public interest groups.

In Ohio, the state ballot board officially approved a redistricting reform measure, and now Fair Districts Ohio will begin collecting signatures. As The Columbus Dispatch explained, “the proposed constitutional amendment would put a bipartisan panel in charge of drawing congressional districts, with final approval required from at least one member of whichever party is in the minority.” This is a big improvement to ensure more bipartisanship and impartial redistricting system, as opposed to the partisan, legislature-controlled process currently in place.

In Washington, where automatic voter registration was passed unanimously by the D.C. Council last year, a spending bill passed on Tuesday sets money aside to hire the necessary personnel and acquire the technology needed to implement the law. Council member Charles Allen told the Washington Post that he expects the system to be operating by October 1.

DC’s automatic voter registration law also pushes the registration deadline back from 30 to 21 days before an election.

The new law “flips the presumption, where right now they ask you if want to be registered. Instead of that, we’re just going to go ahead and get you registered, and that absolutely helps enfranchise voters,” Allen told the Post.

Office: Common Cause Illinois, Common Cause National, Common Cause Ohio, Common Cause Rhode Island

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Redistricting, Registration and Voting Systems

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