Judge clears way for Election Day registration in polling places

SHARE Judge clears way for Election Day registration in polling places

Jeana Caminiti casts her vote at a polling place on election day February 24, 2015 in Chicago (File Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Chicagoans may be able to register to vote on Election Day in their polling places, after all.

A federal appellate judge on Tuesday halted a lower court judge’s decision to bar Election Day voter registration in polling places, after the Illinois Attorney General’s office argued last week that the statute doesn’t inhibit, but enhances the right to vote.

The attorney general’s office on Sept. 30 filed a motion for a stay of the lower court ruling, pending appeal. A judge on Tuesday granted that motion, while also giving the defendants until Thursday to provide a statement about why they believe the appeals should be expedited, according to court records.

The decision means same day registration in polling places will continue this Election Day, on Nov. 8.

A federal judge on Sept. 27 ruled that the Illinois State Board of Elections must stop enacting Election Day voter registration in polling places because the practice doesn’t treat big cities and rural areas equally. The preliminary injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan came on National Voter Registration Day, a day aimed at ensuring voters are registered for the November election.

The law in question requires counties with more than 100,000 people to offer Election Day voter registration at all precinct polling places, but the judge ruled that is unfair to smaller counties.

“Illinois is made up of more than the Chicago metropolitan area and other high population areas. Equality under the law does not end at the city limits,” Der-Yeghiayan wrote, adding the bill “favors the urban citizen and dilutes the vote of the rural citizen.”

The Illinois State Board of Elections said Der-Yeghiayan’s ruling meant that in-precinct registration would have been prohibited on Election Day.

The Liberty Justice Center — which represented the Republicans who challenged the law— had argued the law made voting in counties with populations under 100,000 more difficult.  The group called the same-day registration bill a “scheme,” voted for by all Democrats and voted against by Republicans and one which would favor Democratic candidates.

In its motion for stay, the attorney general’s office argued the legislation doesn’t deny equal protection or infringe on anyone’s right to vote.

“On the contrary, it enhances the right to vote by making it possible for people to register at the polling place on Election Day,” the attorney general’s office said in its motion.

The attorney general’s office also argued that the statute is constitutional and that it doesn’t deny anyone the ability to register or vote.

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