The Illinois State House of Representatives has just sent a bill to the Governor’s desk which, when implemented, would make the state the sixth in the nation to automatically register voters. As Think Progress reports:
‘Starting in 2018, every time Illinois residents visit a Department of Motor Vehicles, an office of Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services, the Secretary of State’s office, or an Employment Security office, he or she will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out.’
The Governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, has not explicitly stated that he will sign the bill, but he has expressed support for the measure. Whether or not he signs it is irrelevant, though, since the bill was passed by a large enough majority of the state House to override any veto.
One of the few lawmakers to oppose the measure, Rep. David Harris, whined, “I think it’s important for the voter to have a little bit of initiative to do what they need to do and not just automatically be signed up.”
Apparently, if a voter has to fill out forms months ahead of an election, and in some cases, months before the names on the ballot are announced, that voter will be a more “educated” voter. Harris did not note that opening up the ballot to more people through automatic registration would allow more people to actually have the opportunity to see who is on the ballot and thereby form an opinion.
Neither did Harris note that voters forming an opinion about candidates, whether or not the state representative agrees, is the basis for the entire American system of government, also known as democracy. Of course, that’s all in character. After all, it was a former State Republican leader from Wisconsin who openly acknowledged that laws which in any way suppress the vote are for the benefit of Republicans. The more people vote, the fewer Republicans are in office.
Automatic voter registration largely destroys the possibility of a voter being denied their right to vote due to improper registration paperwork. The heated nature of the 2016 primary election season has brought to the forefront some of the portions of the American political landscape which shut out certain voting blocs by design. These marginalized groups include those who are unable, for whatever reason, to get their paperwork filled out and mailed in, be they the elderly, college students, low income families, or the military.
Christian Diaz, of Chicago Votes, spoke about some of the impacts of voter turnout in local races, which will be one of the positive things boosted by automatic registration:
‘The federal elections are important, but the things the young people are talking to us about, like police brutality and funding for schools, those are things the president doesn’t necessarily decide. We had a governor’s race [in 2014] with an extremely low turnout, especially of millennials. And now we have a governor who clearly doesn’t think it’s important to fund scholarship programs. When we don’t vote, our concerns are not addressed.’
Putting the scope of the nation’s problem in perspective, the reports out of Illinois come at the same time as Reuters reports that the state of Ohio has taken tens of thousands of voters off of the rolls who have not cast a ballot since the 2008 presidential election. There is a lot more to be done, but, should Illinois Governor Rauner sign the bill, almost 1 in 5 Americans will live under automatic voter registration, which is a huge step in the right direction.