SPRINGFIELD – Illinois this morning became the 10th state to enact automatic voter registration, a good-government and voting-rights initiative advanced by state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill.
Manar and numerous advocates were on hand as Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law the measure, which establishes a more modern system by which eligible adults can have their voter registration information updated automatically whenever they interact with certain state agencies.
Manar said automatic voter registration is a big deal for Illinois and an initiative worth celebrating, particularly as other states seem intent to find new ways to limit people’s access to the polls.
“We in Illinois are pushing back on that. While others are trying to close the doors to the ballot box, we are opening those doors,” he said.
“This bill makes absolute sense. It will save government millions of dollars once it’s fully implemented. It will improve the accuracy of our voting rolls. It does all sorts of things we claim we want to do in Springfield. But most of all, it removes barriers for individuals to put their fingerprints on their democracy.”
An estimated 1 million new eligible voters will be added to the voter rolls in Illinois. Under the new law, people will be able to opt out of being registered to vote if they wish.
Manar thanked Rauner, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, state senators Don Harmon and Jacqueline Y. Collins, grassroots advocates and others for helping to make automatic voter registration a reality. He and Brian Gladstein, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, each noted the bipartisan collaboration that made the measure a success.
“During a time of heightened partisanship fighting in Springfield and across the nation, we have demonstrated that breaking down barriers to the ballot box can be achieved and supported by both democrats and republicans,” Gladstein said. “We must begin restoring faith by our citizens in our democracy, and AVR is a good step in that direction.”
Illinois joins the following states in enacting automatic voter registration: Oregon, California, Alaska, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Vermont, West Virginia, Colorado and Rhode Island.
During Monday’s bill-signing ceremony, several advocates noted the significance of the date, which marks the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. About 250,000 people were present in the nation’s capital that day and heard the speech. They were there to rally for voting rights, equal opportunities for black Americans and for an end to racial segregation and discrimination.