There’s good news today from Illinois, where Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a bill to provide automatic voter registration (AVR) to qualified residents when they do business with state agencies.
Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, the new law makes Illinois the 10th state to adopt automatic registration; Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a similar bill in her state last month.
The law includes provisions that will prevent non-citizens from being added to the voter rolls but will make it easier for everyone who is qualified to participate fully in our democracy. It also includes language that allows citizens to opt-out if they do not want to register.
Rauner vetoed similar legislation last year but had a change of heart after it passed both house of the legislature this year with veto-proof majorities; he is the first Republican governor to sign AVR into law.
“Automatic voter registration will bring hundreds of thousands of additional Illinoisans into the democratic process and the legislature is to be commended for marshaling the support to overcome Gov. Rauner’s veto last year,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.
“Common Cause members and staff continue to throw their weight behind AVR bills across the country with increasing success – even in an era where voter suppression measures are on the rise,” Hobert Flynn added.
Election analysts say automatic registration could add up to 1 million people to the voter rolls in Illinois. In Oregon, the first state to adopt automatic registration, the reform almost immediately generated a six percentage point increase in registrations among residents aged 18-29 and a 26 point increase among Oregonians of color.
The growing popularity of automatic registration is a welcome counter to the efforts of Republican governors and legislators in dozens of states to make registration and voting more difficult.
Despite a lack of evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem in U.S. elections, GOP leaders have stoked public fears of fraud to justify the passage of bills imposing voter identification requirements, shortening voting and registration hours, limiting early voting, and reducing the number of polling places.
Courts in multiple states have blocked some of those moves, concluding they were made to reduce turnout among predominately Democratic voters, including African-Americans, Hispanics, college students, and people with disabilities.
But other obstacles to voting have gone forward, and President Trump has created an “election integrity” commission that appears bent on finding ways to keep more people away from the polls. The president argues that up to 5 million people voted illegally last year, depriving him to a popular vote majority as he won the White House by carrying states with more than 300 electoral votes.
Trump has provided no evidence to support the fraud claims and election officials from both parties agree no evidence exists.
Issues: Voting and Elections