FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Illinois is Poised to Strengthen the Right to Vote

Illinois is about to make voter registration automatic. The Senate and House have passed reform bills unanimously. If the governor signs the final reconciled legislation, Illinois will become the ninth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to adopt automatic voter registration. The bill would begin to register more than 1 million eligible but unregistered voters in Illinois. Even as states continue to pass legislation to restrict voting, this reform promises to open the doors wider.

The legislation would automatically register eligible voters when they interact with the secretary of state’s office or with other state agencies, unless they decline. It builds on the Motor Voter reforms, but those were “opt-in” reforms; voters had to decide to take advantage. This is an opt-out reform; voters are automatically registered unless they decide not to. The difference will end up registering hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.

“Automatic voter registration is a win-win for all,” Cook County Clerk David Orr, one of the champions of the reform, told the Brennan Center for Justice. “It takes the burden of updating voter registration off the backs of voters and shifts it onto government, where it belongs.” It also helps government maintain updated, clean voter rolls, reducing the threat of partisan purges.

This is a big deal. Oregon and California first passed the reform in 2015. When it was fully implemented in Oregon, according to The Nation, 225,000 eligible voters were automatically registered, including nearly 100,000 new voting participants.

The Brennan Center reports that automatic voter registration bills have been introduced in 32 states.

Voting and voting rights are the foundation of democracy. There should be a bipartisan consensus to make registration and voting as simple, easy and accessible as possible. The very legitimacy of our elections and of our leaders depends upon free and fair elections that provide a mandate from the people.

Because of the power of the vote, however, voting rights have always been contested. The civil rights movement had to fight — with lives lost and blood shed — in order to gain the right to vote for African-Americans in the South.

When the conservative gang of five on the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, right-wing legislatures and governors in states across the country began enacting legislation to constrict voting rights in ways that disproportionately impacted people of color, students and the poor. These were partisan bills designed to exclude targeted groups of potential voters from the polls. They required specific voter ID, eliminated early voting days, shut down voting on Sundays, limited hours, purged voter rolls and banned those with convictions from voting even after they had served their sentences, among other measures.

The Brennan Center reports that five states — Iowa, Arkansas, North Dakota, Indiana and Georgia — have already enacted bills to cut back on voting access in the most recent session of state legislatures. Thirty-three bills to make voter registration more burdensome have been introduced into 22 states. Instead of being a matter of bipartisan consensus, voting rights remains contested territory.

In the 2016 election, we’ve heard a lot about what Russia did or didn’t do to interfere with our elections. But whatever Russia did had far less effect that the voter suppression laws that made a big difference in states from North Carolina to Wisconsin. Trump’s margin can literally be counted in the voters who were excluded from voting.

With the Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature, the Illinois reform will put the state on the side of democracy. Much more needs to be done to strengthen voting rights, including everything from ending partisan gerrymandering to curbing the corrosive role of big money in our politics. With automatic voter registration, Illinois will take a first step. With popular organizing and mobilization, it will hopefully be the first of many.

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail