SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Illinois News Network) — Automatically registering voters anytime they register with certain state government agencies was considered a major legislative priority by some at the statehouse, but lawmakers haven’t put the necessary tax dollars behind it to get it started.
As it is right now, Illinois residents can opt in to registering to vote when they get or update information for a state ID card or driver’s license. Lawmakers pushed to make that automatic and to include more state agencies.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the original automatic voter registration bill in 2016 with suggested changes he said made the bill better. Lawmakers followed his lead in 2017 and passed automatic voter registration.
Illinois State Board of Elections General Counsel Ken Menzel said that directed the elections board to start implementing the program.
“We haven’t gotten any money appropriated for it quite yet,” Menzel said. “There’s a supplemental appropriation request pending with the legislature but we do have staff working on it as best we can. The staff that’s working on it has been updating the board on a monthly basis.”
Menzel said the elections office would need more than half a million dollars to get technology and programming in place.
“For the thing to work, we’re going to need, for example, servers,” Menzel said. “And, of course, we’re going to need programming time to do that, and I think some of the money was going to adding staff to do the programming.”
There’s already been coordination between the elections board and the Secretary of State’s office, Menzel said, but other state agencies involved in the process are also going to have to be updated for AVR to work.
“We’ve got to get their systems collecting that data,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get our systems to talk to their systems to transmit it.”
“It’s a fairly big undertaking,” Menzel said. “Without the money, it would be difficult to hit our benchmarks.”
The law says AVR should be fully implemented no later than July 2019.
Supporters of the law said they want to increase voter turnout and that the bill will help keep voter rolls accurate. Opponents said the measure wasn’t necessary and could lead to lower voter turnout percentages by adding scores of more voters to the rolls who might not actually go to the polls.
Eligible voters who don’t want to register to vote automatically when getting a service through the DMV or other state government agencies like the Illinois departments of Human Services, Employment Security, Financial and Professional Regulation, and Natural Resources have to opt out of the system.
The measure explicitly disallows any illegal immigrants to be registered to vote automatically when they apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License.