Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoes automatic voter registration bill

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Gov. Bruce Rauner | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times file photo

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday vetoed a bill that would have automatically registered drivers to become voters when they get a driver’s license, saying there were some “corrections” to be made to the bill before he could approve it.

“Today I return the bill, however, to provide the sponsors and proponents with the opportunity to make some important corrections to protect the integrity of our election system and to comply with federal law,” Rauner said in his veto Friday. “We must also ensure that the State Board of Elections is provided with adequate time and resources to implement the bill’s provisions.”

In a statement, Rauner said he supports efforts to encourage more voter participation in democracy but added that the current bill would “inadvertently open the door to voter fraud and run afoul of federal election law.”

“We will continue working with the legislature and key stakeholders on language that meets our shared goals while complying with federal law and preventing voter fraud,” Rauner said in a statement.

The Senate bill provided that anyone of voting age who is obtaining or renewing a driver’s license at a Secretary of State facility would be automatically offered a voter registration form. The form would have required them to attest under penalty of perjury that they are a U.S. citizen and meet all other stated voter eligibility requirements. They could have also opted out of the process.

Rauner’s administration on Friday said they have been working with both proponents and lawyers to more clearly define how automatic registration would work.

Some of the concerns include voter fraud and state agencies’ abilities to update voter registration accurately.

Republican skeptics of the bill contended it would improve the odds of Democratic candidates in local elections by boosting, in particular, the registration of younger voters, who tend to vote Democratic. Younger voters currently are the least likely to be registered or to vote.

Rauner’s administration also says there’s no funding to implement the new system.

Just Democracy Illinois, a coalition that worked to pass the legislation said Rauner’s veto is moving the state away from making voting more accessible.

“We are deeply disappointed by Governor Rauner’s decision to veto bipartisan automatic voter registration legislation. The governor has said that he is ‘a big fan of simplifying the voter registration process,’ but his actions show otherwise,” the group said in a statement. “He has passed up the opportunity to be a national leader in modernizing voter registration, while creating a safer system and saving taxpayer money in the process.”

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