Democrats push automatic voter registration in Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - State senators heard testimony from voting-rights advocates in favor of Democratic-backed legislation to automatically register voters when they apply for or update driver's licenses or state IDs.
The Subcommittee on Election law took no vote on the matter during a hearing last Tuesday in Chicago.
Witnesses from Cook County Clerk David Orr's office, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the State Innovation Exchange were among those who testified the plan would keep a more mobile society voting.
“If we’re going to do this in Illinois, we have to make sure it’s done right,” Director for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, David Yepsen said.
Yepsen says it can be a slippery slope.
“The pros of this are, it makes it real easy for people, you’re automatically registered to vote,” he explained. “The downside is there’s a fear that corruption, fraud, maybe people that aren’t citizens, are going to be registered to vote, so it’s a very delicate issue.”
It’s a push that has mixed reaction.
“I think there’s enough probably voter fraud particularly here in Illinois right now, and I don’t think we need to add to that by not having a good selection process for voters,” Ken Mitsdarffer said.
I think it’s a good idea,” Kim Morris said. “I think the more people we get to register to vote increases the probability of people to come to the polls and vote.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent population of Illinois residents 18 and older is 9.8 million.
And according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, the number of those that are registered to vote, is roughly 7.6 million.
“Voter turnouts are so bad, that we really should be doing everything we can to increase turnout, but nobody wants fraud so if we’re going to do something like this it’s going to have to have a lot of care,” Yepsen said.
With democratic efforts to push this piece of legislation, it’s something Yepsen said Republicans are cautious of.
“Republicans are going to be wary of democratic efforts to change election laws,” he said. “If you look at the groups most likely not to vote, poor people, minority groups, young people, when those voters do vote, they tend to vote democratic and this is going to make republicans wary of wanting to do this.”
Yepsen said this push for automatic voter registration could possibly cost the state some additional money.
"Any time you add a new wrinkle or a new widget to any law, the chances are you're going to be adding some costs," Yepsen said. "The Secretary of State's office, the people who register voters, this is one more thing for them to do."
Sponsoring Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, said the legislation allows people to decline to be registered and retains traditional registration methods.
Elmhurst Republican Sen. Chris Nybo said the GOP will likely examine cost, efficiency and ensuring voting rights go only to those qualified to vote.