Orr denounces Rauner veto of automatic voter registration

SHARE Orr denounces Rauner veto of automatic voter registration

Cook County Clerk David Orr. File Photo.| Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Days after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have automatically registered new voters as they seek state services — listing voter fraud and federal elections laws as reasons for his veto — Cook County Clerk David Orr said Monday he doesn’t “buy it.”

“No offense to the governor but I don’t buy it,” Orr said of Rauner’s veto. “I don’t buy it for a moment.”

“We simply do not buy the reasons given on the veto message,” he said.

The governor cited federal law and protecting “the integrity” of the vote in his veto.

“I strongly support efforts to simplify the voter registration process and remove barriers to voting, while still protecting the integrity of our election system,” Rauner said in his veto message on Friday. “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.”

Orr, and other elected officials, including state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, said the issue is “political,” with Collins contending Rauner’s veto could be about concerns that an increased number of registered voters in November’s election would mean more Democratic votes.

“Given the demographic makeup of this state, I can very well see that it’s true. We know that right now Illinois is a blue state. We know that in the last elections the primary impetus for ushering in Obama presidency was those under-represented communities who had the access to vote. … I do feel it is to circumvent the shortcut and to sort of diminish the power of those constituencies,” Collins, D-Chicago, said of Rauner’s veto.

Using a new database to automatically update the addresses of voters who move would have taken effect on Sept. 1 under the law. But other provisions, including new processes for registering voters at driver’s license facilities and other state agencies, would not be implemented until 2018.

Clerks such as Orr are especially interested in the automated address update, because it eliminates the hassle of voters having to update it themselves.

Orr cited 700,000 voters in Illinois who are registered from an old address and will have to re-register for November’s election. He said those voters would have been automatically re-registered if Rauner had passed the bill.

“Those 700,000 people are Republican, Democratic, independents. Those 700,000 people of whatever makeup, they’re going to have to be going through hoops they shouldn’t have to,” Orr said.

Rauner vetoed the bill on Friday after weeks of negotiations with the group Just Democracy Illinois. The group’s co-coordinator Abe Scarr on Monday said there were two sticking points: pushing back the full implementation date for the automatic registration from Jan. 1, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019 and changing an opt-out process which would have automatically registered drivers.

Currently, drivers are asked if they want to opt-in to register to vote or update their registration. The bill would have automatically registered those getting a new or updated driver’s license or any other state service unless they chose to opt out. State agencies included the Secretary of State’s office, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the Department of Employment Security and the Department on Aging.

Scarr noted the implementation pushback would push automatic registration through those agencies to after the next gubernatorial election in 2018, in which Rauner has said he’ll run again.

The governor’s administration contended the later start date was to not burden the State Board of Elections.

Rauner said the bill doesn’t require applicants to “attest to meeting the qualifications to vote or to sign the application, as required by federal law,” which could lead to non-citizens voting. In his veto, Rauner mentioned three examples of voter fraud, including a woman from the Philippines who was given the option to register to vote when getting a license and was deported after voting.

But Orr on Monday said the state doesn’t have a problem with non-citizens trying to vote: “These people do not want to be deported for accidentally registering to vote,” he said.

Orr and others on Monday said the bill didn’t violate federal law because automatic voter registration has been passed in five other states and had been properly vetted by legislators.

Legislators can try to override Rauner’s veto during in November. But Rauner says he’s willing to continue working with the Legislature and stakeholders on “language that meets our shared goals while complying with federal law and preventing voter fraud.”

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