Illinois House Fails to Override Veto of Automatic Voter Registration


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After several successes in 2016, supporters of automatic voter registration (AVR) are looking ahead to more states joining the list in 2017 – but those hopes suffered a setback yesterday when the Illinois House was unable to join the Senate in overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of an AVR bill. The Chicago Sun-Times has more:

The Illinois House failed Tuesday to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill aimed at making voter registration automatic in Illinois.

The House was just four votes shy of an override, voting 67-47. The Senate voted to override the veto on Nov. 16.

Under the bill, people seeking a new or updated drivers license would have been automatically registered to vote or have their registration updated unless they chose not to.

Currently, drivers are asked if they want to register to vote or update their information.

There had been some hope that Republicans who had initially supported the bill would vote to override, but not all did:

During about 20 minutes of debate on Tuesday, several Republicans who initially voted for the bill’s passage said there was more work to be done.

“We didn’t make it right,” Rep. Ed Sullivan, R-Mundelein, said. “We could do it better.”

That’s something Rauner urged in his veto.

Rauner in August vetoed the bill, saying there were some “corrections” to be made before he could sign off on it. He said he supports efforts to encourage more voter participation but added that the current bill would “inadvertently open the door to voter fraud and run afoul of federal election law.”

Rauner’s administration said they had been working with both proponents and lawyers to more clearly define how automatic registration would work.

In addition to the potential for voter fraud, some of the concerns included state agencies’ abilities to update voter registration accurately.

Not surprisingly, proponents vow to continue the fight:

Proponents of the bill said the language was carefully crafted over 18 months and would have made voter rolls more accurate and secure. They said politics was behind the veto.

“It is a shame that partisan political games derailed a common-sense bill that passed with broad-based bipartisan support just a few months ago,” said Andy Kang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, part of the coalition Just Democracy Illinois.

And Cook County Clerk David Orr, a huge proponent of the bill, said he was disappointed with the vote. Orr said it would have saved taxpayer money, improve the accuracy of voter registration rolls and boost voter participation. He noted there are nearly 700,000 people in Illinois registered at addresses where they no longer live.

“It is my hope that lawmakers, before this veto session ends or in the next session, can work together to revive and pass AVR legislation in order to secure and modernize our state’s voter rolls,” Orr said in a statement. “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.”

Legislative debates like this are likely to persist as 2017 dawns, but the sledding will be tougher in many states where Republicans (who tend to be skeptical of AVR) have increased their majorities or taken control of chambers previously held by Democrats. It will be interesting to see if AVR proponents are able to find a workable compromise in Illinois – and if those efforts offer any hope for further expansion of AVR in the post-2016 legislative environment.

Stay tuned …

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