* Press release…
The Liberty Justice Center has filed a federal lawsuit to strike down Illinois’ Election Day voter registration law. The lawsuit shows that this law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by making it more difficult for people to register to vote in some areas of the state than in others.
In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law creating a system for Election Day voter registration in Illinois. The law is unlike any other voter registration law in the U.S. because the availability of Election Day voter registration at polling places varies by county. The law requires counties with populations of 100,000 or more to offer Election Day voter registration at all polling places. However, the law does not require counties with lower populations to offer Election Day voter registration at all polling places – making it more difficult for people to register to vote in some areas of the state than in others.
Every state senator and representative who voted for this scheme was a Democrat, and every state senator and representative who voted against it was a Republican. Not coincidentally, high-population counties in Illinois tend to favor Democratic candidates; low-population counties in Illinois tend to favor Republican candidates. Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law during his final days in office.
“Illinois’ voter registration law is unconstitutional. The state cannot give some citizens better opportunities to vote than it gives to others,” said Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “If Illinois is going to have Election Day voter registration at polling places, it should be available statewide. And it should be fair.”
The plaintiffs in this case are Patrick Harlan, a candidate for Congress in Western Illinois, and the Crawford County Republican Central Committee.
The lawsuit asks the federal court to order the Illinois State Board of Elections to direct election authorities in all 102 Illinois counties not to provide Election Day registration at precinct polling places in the November election. That’s the only way a federal court can fix the unfairness of this law. Or, the General Assembly could fix the unfairness of the law by changing it, so that Election Day registration is available at polling places everywhere – not just in places where one political party wants to boost its turnout.
The center was created by the Illinois Policy Institute.
The filing is here. Video of its press conference is here. The group wants a preliminary injunction issued before this November’s election.
When asked why the group waited so long to file the lawsuit, the center’s spokesperson said “We didn’t notice it a year ago.”
*** UPDATE *** Dave McKinney…
State Senator Don Harmon, a Democrat from suburban Chicago and the law’s chief Senate sponsor, said Illinois law commonly differentiates between counties’ populations and said election officials in less-populous counties voiced concern about not having resources for polling place registration.
Under the law in question, voters in smaller counties can still register on Election Day in county clerks’ offices.
Harmon suggested the lawsuit’s real aim is to dampen Democratic voter turnout this fall, particularly in party strongholds like Cook County. In 2015, there were 4 million residents in the county above the voter-eligible age of 18, according to the U.S. Census. […]
“I suspect the plaintiffs are much more interested in having same-day registration thrown out in Cook County than they are in extending it to every small county in Illinois,” Harmon said.
If I was going to put on my tinfoil hat, I’d say it also has something to do with contested legislative races. The Institute is a major Rauner ally and he’s dumping millions of dollars into those races.