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Plan to make Election Day voter registration permanent passes General Assembly

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers have passed a plan that they say will make voting even easier in 2016.

Modeled after a successful 2014 pilot program, it allows same day registration on Election Day and extended early voting.

“Making it easier to vote encourages people to participate in our democracy,” said state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, the measure’s sponsor.

Under Harmon’s plan, people will be able to register and vote on Election Day. In Illinois’ larger counties (with populations over 100,000), voters will be able to register at their local precincts. In smaller counties that lack the resources to handle in-precinct registration, same day registration will be available in the county clerk’s main office and certain large towns.

Early voting will now be an option seven days per week for the two weeks leading up to the election. On weekdays, the polls will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the first week. They will be open until 7 p.m. the second week. On Saturdays, polling locations will be open from 9 a.m. to noon, and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In an effort to reduce fraud and improve Illinois’ voter rolls, Illinois will begin participating in the multi-state Electronic Registration Information Center. This program helps states identify voters who have moved or died.

The legislation also clarifies when and how county election authorities can process early voting ballots and requires election authorities to disclose how many uncounted ballots they have in their possession. These changes stem from concerns identified from the recent Treasurer’s race, one of the closest statewide elections in Illinois history.

The plan also eliminates the idea of absentee voting from Illinois law. In-person voting before Election Day will simply be referred to as early voting from now on, and traditional absentee voting will now be included in the general vote-by-mail program, reflecting the way the state conducts modern-day elections.

The governor is widely expected to sign the legislation, Senate Bill 172, into law.

Twelve other states already have Election Day registration and voting, including Illinois’ Midwestern neighbors Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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