SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) condemned the governor’s decision today to veto legislation that would have established automatic voter registration in Illinois, bypassing arcane and unnecessary registration rules to engage more citizens, especially youth.

“Democracy can’t wait on the governor to become comfortable with an idea that has already taken root in five states and would protect our most fundamental freedom – one for which our foremothers and forefathers bled and died,” Collins said. “As a Black woman hopeful for the next generation of active citizens, I am deeply troubled that our state ranks 23rd nationally in the percentage of eligible voters who are registered. Automatic voter registration would improve access to the polls and civic participation – a goal toward which every elected official should strive.”

More than two million Illinoisans are eligible to vote but cannot because they aren’t registered. Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are least likely to be on the voter rolls. Moving accounts for one-third of the gap; one in nine Americans move each year, and those who change addresses often are not aware that they must reregister at the new address in order to vote in subsequent elections.

The automatic voter registration plan (Senate Bill 250), which passed both legislative chambers with bipartisan support, would have streamlined access while improving security. It would have required government agencies – including Driver Services facilities and human services offices – to forward information provided to them by eligible residents to the Board of Elections to add to the voter rolls or update existing registrations. An eligible voter could still opt out of being registered. The legislation the governor vetoed today actually contains stricter safeguards than the current law to prevent fraud and require the rolls to be regularly updated and checked for accuracy.

“Recent federal court rulings in Wisconsin, Texas and elsewhere have reinforced that voting restrictions – such as ‘voter ID laws’ – that disproportionately block access to the polls by minorities, seniors and young people are unconstitutional, no matter how hard their proponents try to disguise them as fraud prevention tactics,” Collins said. “Here in Illinois, members of both parties are endeavoring to forge a different path, one that empowers all who are entitled to vote, and I am greatly disappointed that Governor Rauner has decided to stand in the way.”

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