Legislators may override governor's veto of plan to automatically sign up voters

By Dawn Geske | Nov 25, 2016

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois legislators are looking to make voting even easier by overriding the governor’s veto of a bill designed to register voters when they apply for drivers licenses.

Senate Bill 250 aims to automatically register eligible Illinois residents to vote when they apply for their license, increasing the number of eligible voters in the state.

“This is essentially an opt-out system where they would be gathering information unless you said you didn’t want to do it,” said Kent Redfield, professor of political science-emeritus with the Institute for Legal, Legislative, and Policy Sciences at the University of Illinois-Springfield. “This is a way to get more people into the system. But, again, a citizen can choose to exercise the right to vote.”

While SB 250 received overwhelming support early on in the House and Senate, it has been vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, leaving it to legislators to attempt to override his veto or come up with a new proposal.

To override the governor’s veto, both the House and the Senate must come up with a three-fifths majority to pass the bill.

Part of the governor’s concern centers on the potential for ineligible individuals being accidentally registered and allowed to vote. He is not completely opposed to the bill, he has said, but does not support it as currently proposed.

“The governor is raising questions whether or not there are adequate procedures on safeguarding information,” said Redfield. “He’s raising questions about efficiency and effectiveness. He’s raising questions about capacity in terms of the State Board of Elections. Some of those are budget issues and some of those are implementation issues.”

Implementation is a concern for the bill, as its additional measures could add to the state’s budget, and there could be issues with the verifying and handling of individuals’ information.

“You have to make sure you are safeguarding individuals' information when transferring it from agency to agency,” said Redfield.

Another issue comes into play with the validation of citizenship, which currently isn’t being done by the State Board of Elections or the registrars.

“The system that is in place just gathers information, and the assumption is if you are not a citizen you are less likely to have that information,” said Redfield. “You’re probably unwilling to put yourself at risk just to be eligible to vote. You probably have a lot bigger concerns than participating in an election.”

According to Redfield, this is a partisan issue in which the early support has changed.

“This time around you basically have the Democrats on one side and the Republicans on the other,” said Redfield. “The persons pushing this tend to be government groups that want more people to participate in the political process. They view this as a positive thing to do. They want to get as many people in the system as possible. They’re trying to make this as expansive as possible.”

While the bill will certainly increase the number of registered voters in Illinois, whether these people will actually vote is something entirely different.

“That should increase the numbers of people that are registered to vote, but whether or not they would actually vote is an entirely different question,” said Redfield.

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