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Automatic Voter Registration Measure Unanimously Passes Illinois Senate

By Heather Cherone | May 5, 2017 1:00pm | Updated on May 8, 2017 8:07am
 A resident casts a vote at a 49th Ward polling place.
A resident casts a vote at a 49th Ward polling place.
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CHICAGO — Illinois residents would be automatically registered to vote under a measure that unanimously passed the Illinois Senate Friday.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure in November that supporters said was designed to help get approximately 2 million unregistered Illinois residents to the polls.

Rauner said he was concerned that the measure approved by the General Assembly last year conflicted with federal law and did not do enough to protect against voter fraud.

The measure approved Friday would automatically register Illinois residents to vote when they sign up for or renew a driver’s license or state identification — unless they chose not to register. The current law asks Illinois residents whether they want to register, which voting rights advocates say is less effective.

A spokeswoman for Rauner did not immediately respond to a question about today's 48-0 vote by the Senate.

The measure now heads to the Illinois House.

To address some of the governor's concerns, license renewal or application forms now include a provision that informs Illinois residents that their signature counts as an voter registration application, and gives them the option of opting not to register to vote.

In addition, the law would allow more state agencies — including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources — to register voters.

Cook County Clerk David Orr praised the vote, saying Friday in a statement that the current system is "inefficient and inconveient."

"Streamlining the voter registration process benefits all Illinoisans, making it easier to vote and harder to cheat," Orr said. "Democrats, Republicans and Independents can all get behind this measure that saves local governments money and saves voters time by limiting unnecessary interactions with government bureaucracy."