County clerks across Illinois began preparing to offer Election Day voter registration after Gov. Pat Quinn signed a measure Tuesday that’ll also give voters more time to cast early ballots and remove a photo identification requirement to vote early.
Supporters wanted a trial run with the new rules, so the law only applies to the November election, with the goal of expanding it later. Still, several clerks said voter registration sites on Nov. 4 would be limited.
Cook County Clerk David Orr estimated that implementing the law would cost about $50,000 for his office with voters being allowed to vote until the Sunday before the election and for longer evening hours. Considering the size of the county, it wasn’t much, he said. Officials in other counties, including Pike County in western Illinois, said they planned to meet on the issue soon.
“It’s nice to be in a state that is expanding voting rights rather than shrinking them,” Orr said.
Ten other states and Washington D.C., allow same-day voter registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several other Democratic-led states have approved plans expanding same-day registration or early voting, while GOP-controlled legislatures in some states, including Wisconsin, have taken recent steps to limit early voting by limiting days it’s available.
The Illinois law would remove the photo identification requirement for in-person early voting and let Illinois’ public universities set up a campus location for in-person absentee voting on Election Day. Backers said the new law will improve access for voters, help boost turnout and modernize election law.
But opponents said making it easier to vote doesn’t guarantee informed voters, and they questioned the motives of those supporting the law. Republicans said the measure — which was fast-tracked through the Legislature on the second-to-last-day of the spring session — was part of an effort to draw votes for Democrats. Quinn and other Democrats have dismissed the claim.
Quinn said the plan would make voting “as easy as possible.”
“It’s very, very important that we uphold those fundamental opportunities for people to participate in our democracy,” he said at the bill signing.
The November election will feature one of the most competitive gubernatorial races nationwide. Quinn, who is seeking a second full term, is being challenged by Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Democrats and Republicans have pushed voter initiatives hoping to draw voters to the polls.
Still most Illinois counties were expected to offer limited sites for early voting. For instance, Pike County has one early voting site at the county building in Pittsfield. That could potentially be the county’s Election Day registration site, but county officials had yet to meet on the issue, said Pike County Clerk Donnie Apps.
The new law follows other recent efforts aimed at improving turnout. This year, 17-year-olds were allowed to vote in the March primary election if they turned 18 by the general election. Another new law allows online voter registration.
SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press