A bill that would sign up more people to vote while also cleaning up voter rolls is sitting on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, awaiting for his signature. Here’s hoping he does not delay.
As it stands now, people renewing their driver’s licenses are asked if they would also like to register to vote. But plenty of people, often in a rush, decline.
But if Gov. Rauner signs the new automatic voter registration law, the Illinois secretary of state beginning in 2018 would use the information gathered in the driver’s licensing processes to automatically register people to vote, if they are citizens and not already registered. The state later would mail these people a card explaining how they can opt out of registering.
Four other state agencies — the Department on Aging, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and the Department of Employment Security — also would automatically register Illinoisans who come through their doors, although the process would be slightly different.
The bill includes safeguards to prevent anyone from being registered who is not legally entitled to do so. Moreover, a separate bill already signed by the governor boosts the documentation requirements for someone obtaining a driver’s license or state ID.
Anything that puts more citizens on the voting rolls is a boost for democracy. The whole point of elections is to determine the will of the people. Expanding the number of registered voters moves us closer to that ideal.
An equally important provision of the bill makes it easier to correct the rolls when someone dies or moves to a new jurisdiction. People don’t always realize they need to re-register when they move to a new address, which can clog voter rolls with inaccurate information.
The sharing of information among government agencies enabled by the bill would speed up corrections to the voter rolls. It would make them more accurate because it uses electronic information that already has been collected. It would require less staff time and paperwork, and it might even shorten lines at polling places on Election Day.
It would make state government more modern and efficient, something that Rauner has called for.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, five states have enacted automatic voter registration in the last 17 months. Illinois should join them.
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