Illinois lawmakers couldn’t agree on a budget, but May 31 they did pass a measure to enable the state to register more people to vote.


As the final hours of the spring legislative session came to a close, the General Assembly endorsed a measure that would make Illinois the fifth state to have automatic voter registration. Currently California, Vermont, West Virginia and Oregon are the only states to have approved some form of automatic voter registration.


Under the bill, state driver’s license facilities would automatically register their customers to vote unless specifically asked not to do so.


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State Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, said the legislation would make Illinois voter rolls more accurate.


“Automatic voter registration will modernize voter registration in Illinois,” Gabel said. “It will get more eligible voters on the rolls and make our voting lists more accurate.”


State Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said making registration too easy creates uninformed voters. “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.”


State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said the bill doesn’t adequately address voter fraud. “We need to make sure that as we make voter registration opt-in, we also make the integrity of those programs easier.”


Public Interest Research Group Director Abe Scarr testified to the bill’s merits in committee. Scarr said the system’s technology would help guarantee integrity. “We believe that the system we designed is actually more accurate and secure than what is already in place.”


The bill now awaits Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature. Rauner has spoken positively about reforming the way Illinois manages its voter rolls.