Rauner vetoes automatic voter registration bill despite bipartisan support from legislators

Nora Shelly, Assistant City Editor

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a voter registration bill Friday that would have automatically registered voters seeking a new or updated license, saying the law would be at odds with federal law.

The bill, which would take effect in January 2018, had overwhelming support in both the Illinois House, where it passed 86-30, and in the Senate, where it prevailed 42-16. Based on those votes, legislators could override Rauner’s veto with approval from three-fifths of both houses.

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said Friday in a news release that he would continue to work toward expanding access to voting in the state.

“At a time when things are so polarized in Illinois government, it’s important that lawmakers and the governor find issues we can agree on and act on them,” Biss said in the release. “If we can’t agree on this — the importance of eliminating barriers to voting and saving taxpayers a little money in the process — then I worry that there are very few things we’ll ever agree on.”

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) in the House, would also have automatically registered voters seeking other services from state departments such as Human Services or Healthcare and Family Services.

“To me, voting rights are kind of the essence of our democracy, and I believe there are too many people who are not registered to vote and do not vote,” Gabel told The Daily in May after the bill passed the Senate. “I think it’s everyone’s civic responsibility as well as our country’s responsibility to make it as easy as possible for people to be registered to vote.”

People conducting business with these departments would have been given the opportunity to opt out of automatic registration.

In a statement following the veto, Rauner said aspects of the bill must be changed to ensure it complies with a federal law that requires a potential voter to both sign their application to vote and attest that they meet the required qualifications.

“The consequences could be injurious to our election system,” he said in the statement. “We know that non-citizens have registered to vote in Illinois after obtaining a driver’s license and voted in recent elections.”

Rauner also said the bill should be revised to provide adequate time and resources to the State Board of Elections to implement the changes.

Rauner indicated he would support a future version of the bill.

“I strongly support efforts to simplify the voter registration process and remove barriers to voting, while still protecting the integrity of our election system,” he said.

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