Testimony in Support of Automatic Voter Registration

Presented by Executive Director Brian Gladstein at the Illinois Subject Matter Senate Hearing

Posted on October 13, 2015

Automatic Registration Hearing

Expanding voting rights for everyone living in Illinois is a priority for Common Cause Illinois and, therefore, we strongly support pursuing Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) for our state. We thank Senator Manar for introducing Senate Bill 2134, and look forward to working with him, members of this committee, and others to further develop the legislation.

Common Cause Illinois is a state organization of Common Cause, one of the nation’s most effective advocacy organizations dedicated to reforming government and strengthening democracy in America.  Established in 1970, Common Cause has a robust presence in Washington, state operations in 35 states, 400,000 members and a reputation as a nonpartisan leader working for government that is accountable to the people. In 2012, the organization committed to rebuilding strong operations in Illinois.

Over the last three years Common Cause Illinois (CCIL) has become a key leader, working to build diverse coalitions, training leaders in democracy reform, and using media outreach, social media and a range of activities to educate the public about fundamental issues that impact the quality of life in our state. CCIL has worked with our members and coalition partners to successfully advocate for online voter registration and same day registration at the state level and passed two advisory questions in the City of Chicago on money and politics.  

Recently, Common Cause has led efforts to pass Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon and California. We believe that Illinois must be next. Voter turnout in Illinois ranks 47th in the country among Millennials and is the second lowest overall in the Midwest among all voters. In fact, we witnessed historic turnout lows in the 2014 March primaries, with about 13 percent turnout in Chicago, 19 percent downstate and statewide, and 15 percent for Cook County suburbs. Some wards in the city had turnouts as low as 9 percent.

Common Cause Illinois a member of the Just Democracy Coalition Steering Committee which includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago, Chicago Votes, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, and Illinois PIRG. All of our steering committee members work in some way with underrepresented voters, including women, people of color and young people, and we are all committed to ensuring our democracy works for all.

There are many reasons to support AVR. AVR greatly expands access to the franchise and promises to add many more eligible Illinois voters to the rolls, making it more likely they will participate in elections, strengthening our democracy. For example, in Oregon, it is estimated to add 300,000 unregistered voters while in Illinois that number is closer to 2.4 million non registered voters. AVR offers a highly secure process for voter registration; it happens in state offices and typically involves eligible voters showing multiple forms of identification.

Today’s senate hearing provides us an opportunity to voice our support and provide to you recommendations that will address the policy concerns related to AVR.

Common Cause Illinois is working through the Just Democracy Coalition, our national office and organizations like the Brennen Center to address policy concerns and draft recommendations. We believe it is critical that the legislation drafted provide extensive detail and language around AVR implementation to address such as Inadvertent Non Citizen Registration, Privacy concerns and NVRA compliance. Today, applicants must provide: two documents proving residence and documents listing their signature, date of birth and Social Security number to the Secretary of State to apply for a driver’s license. Voter registration only requires two-forms of ID, neither of which need to be proof of residency. Traditional registration processes will also remain in place in addition to automatic registration provided by the legislation.

In summary, we strongly support pursuing Automatic Voter Registration Illinois and look forward to working with Senator Manar and sponsors of this legislation to strengthen voting rights for all people throughout Illinois.

Expanding voting rights for everyone living in Illinois is a priority for Common Cause Illinois and, therefore, we strongly support pursuing Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) for our state.

Office: Common Cause Illinois

Issues: Voting and Elections, Voting and Elections

Tags: Registration and Voting Systems, Automatic Voter Registration

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