CHICAGO — Though a measure to enact automatic voter registration in Illinois failed in Springfield Tuesday, one Chicago group vows to fight for the program they say can benefit millions in the state.
The Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday failed to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a bill that would bring automatic voter registration to Illinois. The measure failed to garner the super majority needed to override the veto by four votes, according to reports.
Under the bill, residents visiting a state agency like Veteran's Services or the Secretary of State's Office would have the information collected by those agencies forwarded to the state board of elections. The personal information would then be used to register people to vote, though residents could later opt out, advocates said.
Such a program would benefit about 2 million unregistered people in Illinois, said Christian Diaz, executive director of Chicago Votes, an voting rights advocacy group. The populations who would most benefit would be people who frequently move and poor people unfamiliar with how to register, he said.
"It's really simple, common sense policy," Diaz said. "If we modernize our democracy ... the more people will be able to participate."
Rauner vetoed the measure, saying their weren't enough safeguards against fraud. But Diaz said such thinking is "completely ludicrous and not based in any fact."
Instead, the bill would help safeguard against fraud, as passing off false information to the Secretary of State or Department of Child and Family Services would be a lot more difficult, Diaz said. It would also save the state from having to process registration forms, which in the most cases are filled with information the state already has on file, he said.
"Ultimately it saves the state money," he said. "It will make our voter rolls more accurate."
Cook County Clerk David Orr agreed, saying the legislation would save taxpayer money and limit "unnecessary interactions with government bureacracy." He said 700,000 state residents remain registered at addresses where they no longer live.
"We need to take the burden of continual registration off the backs of citizens and place the onus on government to efficiently serve its citizens," Orr said in a statement.
With the defeat of the veto override Tuesday, supporters of the measure will have to wait until the next legislative session to reintroduce the bill, Diaz said. Supporters will be ready when the time comes, he said.
Rauner's administration told the Sun-Times they are working to "more clearly define how automatic registration would work" moving forward.
"The fight isn't over," Diaz said. "There's no doubt in my mind there will be automatic voter registration in Illinois."
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