Appeals court stays ruling on same-day voter registration


Daily file photo by Sean Su

A Northwestern student casts his ballot at the Civic Center in 2014. A ruling by a federal court was stayed on Tuesday, meaning voters in larger counties will likely be able to register and vote on Election Day at their precinct.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Illinois residents may still have a chance to register and vote in their precinct on election day, after a federal court stayed a ruling limiting same-day registration.

The Seventh District Court of Appeals stayed the order on Tuesday, after an appeal was filed to the decision in late September that limited same-day registration only to central voting locations.

In the original case, the nonpartisan Liberty Justice Center challenged the law, arguing that the same-day voter legislation unfairly discriminated against those in counties with populations under 100,000.

The law requires counties with populations of more than 100,000 to offer same-day voter registration at precinct places, while counties with populations less than 100,000 people are not required to offer the same-day registration service at all voting sites. The initial ruling would have allowed same-day registration only at central voting locations.

Some decried last week’s federal court decision, saying it was announced too close to Election Day. Under the temporary stay, there will be same-day voting registration available at all precincts in counties with a population over 100,000.

“Many voters who move don’t update their registrations, and when they show up in their precincts on Election Day, they can only vote if (Election Day Registration) is an option,” Cook County Clerk David Orr said in a news release. “We shouldn’t turn these people away.”

The election day registration law was passed in 2014. In a news release after the law was struck down last week, Jacob Huebert, a senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said the law was “a scheme designed to boost Democratic voter turnout more than it would boost Republican voter turnout.”

According to a press release from the ACLU of Illinois, more than 100,000 people registered and voted using Election Day Registration in the state — both Democratic and Republican voters — in the March primaries.

“We applaud the Seventh Circuit for recognizing that the rules of the election should not be changed so close to Election Day,” said Edwin C. Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois’ Director of Communications and Public Policy. “It is always better for our democracy when more people participate in the electoral process.”

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