Illinois Senate Approves Automatic-Voter Registration Bill

May 7, 2017

Illinois senators have overwhelmingly endorsed an automatic-voter registration plan two years in the making.

Credit Flickr user / kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) "Vote!" (CC BY 2.0)

SB1933 would register qualified voters automatically when they visit Secretary of State offices and a handful of other state agencies unless they decide to opt out. It moves to the House after a 48-0 vote Friday in the Senate.

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is sponsoring the measure. He says it would streamline voter registration and bolster participation.

“This provides evidence to people in the state of Illinois that Democrats and Republicans can work together on an issue that often times just goes right down the partisan hole in the legislature,” he said.

Democrats say it would put Illinois ahead of the curve among states. And this time, Republicans agreed — unanimously.

“Illinois has had its struggles, and continues to have its struggles over a variety of things," said Patty Schuh, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, "so to be a leader in something is really nice.”

A previous version passed both chambers last fall but Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it over concerns it didn't do enough to prevent voter fraud. Manar says this version addresses nearly all of the governor's concerns.

Schuh says SB1933 fixes a problem Republicans saw last time around: people who aren’t citizens getting added to voter rolls, and the headache of removing them.

Another important change: Rather than limiting the system to take place when people get driver’s licenses, residents would also be registered at other state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, which issues hunting licenses.

Seven other states and the District of Columbia already register voters automatically.

  • The Associated Press and Illinois Public Radio's Thomas Lisi contributed to this story.