President Barack Obama addressed the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday and encouraged legislators to pass the bill that would automatically register voters when they apply for their driver’s license.
“I’d encourage this assembly to take the next step. Sen. [Andy] Manar and Rep. [Robyn] Gable have bills that would automatically register eligible citizenS to vote when they apply for a driver’s license,” President Obama said.
The President said that as one of the assembly’s constituents, he would like to see the legislation passed immediately.
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“Let’s set the pace, encourage other states across the country to follow our lead making automatic voter registration the new norm across America,” President Obama said.
The President also said the bill would protect the fundamental voting right of everybody and make it easier for seniors, people with disabilities, and men and women serving in the military to have their vote counted.
But critics contend automatic voter registration would force voter registration.
Matthew Vadum, Senior Vice President at Capital Research Center, said he worries that the government may not have the ability to handle such reform.
“We are very suspicious of automatic voter registration proposals because they are so prone to fraud. There very likely would be a lot of ineligible voters and duplicate produced if voters were registered automatically. It creates all sorts of problems,” Vadum said.
Vadum said the bill is also problematic because the National Voter Registration Act, which was enacted during Bill Clinton’s administration, makes it illegal for government clerks to ask individuals if they are a U.S. citizen when giving them a voter registration form.
While Illinois does have driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, Sen. Manar’s legislation specifically excludes those drivers from being automatically registered.
Vadum said that although he believes the voting process should be as efficient as possible, he doesn’t think universal automatic voter registration is in the best interest of the country.
Across the country, there has been strong bipartisan effort to modernize voter registration. In 2015, Oregon and California both passed automatic registration laws that would automatically register eligible citizens who have driver’s licenses.