Illinois not giving up on automatic voter registration

A new effort to bring automatic voter registration (AVR) to Illinois is gaining steam.

An AVR bill passed the state Senate Friday, gaining votes from lawmakers of both parties. It will now go to the House.

AVR works by automatically registering eligible voters when they come in contact with the DMV or other government agencies. Voting advocates say it has the potential to dramatically expand access to the ballot.

Last year, an AVR bill passed overwhelmingly in both Illinois houses, but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, who cited concerns about fraud. States that have implemented AVR say they’ve had few problems ensuring that only eligible voters register.

The new bill includes changes aimed at wining Rauner’s support. According to The Chicago Tribune, it requires applicants to affirm they’re eligible to vote, and it requires that people be given the chance to opt out at the time when they come in contact with the government agency that triggers the registration. (Though some critics of AVR falsely refer to it as “mandatory voter registration,” all existing AVR systems allow voters to opt out at some point in the process). The Illinois bill also adds two additional government agencies to the list of agencies that register voters.

Still, Rauner’s office suggested he wasn’t sold yet.

“We continue to work with stakeholders to address concerns with the legislation that passed last year,” a spokeswoman told the Tribune. “We hope our remaining concerns will be addressed in the House.”

Since 2015, six states including California have passed or created AVR.

Rauner is one of three GOP governors to veto AVR bills. The others are Chris Christie of New Jersey and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, where an AVR measure will now appear on the 2018 ballot.

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