Capitol Fax.com - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x2 - White responds *** Democrats, activists say Jesse White “failed” to implement AVR
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*** UPDATED x2 - White responds *** Democrats, activists say Jesse White “failed” to implement AVR

Monday, Sep 24, 2018

* Press release…

Secretary of State Jesse White’s plan to implement automatic voter registration falls short and fails to comply with the clear requirements of the law, Illinois’ leading voting rights coalition said at a press conference on Monday.

The automatic voter registration bill, which passed the legislature unanimously and which Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law in August 2017, required the Office of the Secretary of State to implement automatic voter registration by July 1st of this year. The Secretary of State has already missed that deadline, meaning that the landmark law will not be in place before the November election.

Advocates stated they were exploring all legal options, including litigation.

Automatic voter registration would change the process to register to vote at state agencies from an opt-in system, where eligible voters must to take multiple additional steps to be registered, to an opt-out system that registers all eligible voters unless they request to be left off the voter rolls. It would also shift agency registration from a paper-based to electronic system. As has been demonstrated in other states, a well-designed automatic voter registration system registers more eligible voters, saves taxpayer money, and results in a more accurate and secure voter list.

This July, working in coordination with the State Board of Elections, the Secretary of State implemented one portion of the law, modernizing the current opt-in voter registration system. This system, where eligible voters must take multiple steps to register to vote or update their registration, changed in July from a paper-based to an entirely electronic process. However, the Secretary of State failed to implement the cornerstone of the law, opt-out registration, where eligible voters are registered to vote automatically unless they take action to opt out, by the July statutory deadline.

The Office of the Secretary of State’s initial plan for the opt-out process would have no tangible difference from the opt-in process. Their planned process would require eligible voters to take all the same steps register to vote as the opt-in process, including additional signatures and duplicative verifications in order to complete the process. Through a series of negotiations, the Office of the Secretary of State has agreed to make some changes to their plan, but not until July or August 2019, more than a year late, and past both the November state and February Chicago local elections.

Advocates asserted their attempts to help the Office of Secretary of State were not welcomed.

“Over the past year, our coalition has offered assistance to help the Secretary of State’s office with implementation - whether it was calling for more resources, providing community feedback, or connecting them with national experts, and with one minor exception, they rebuffed our offers,” said Stevie Valles, Executive Director of Chicago Votes, another Just Democracy Illinois Steering Committee member.

“Illinois was a leader when it passed automatic voter registration with unanimous bipartisan support,” said Hannah Kim, Public Interest Advocate with Illinois PIRG, a Steering Committee member of the Just Democracy coalition who has lead coalition implementation efforts. “Unfortunately, the Secretary of State’s plan fails to achieve the fundamental objectives of the law.”

“The Illinois legislature passed the bill and the governor signed it into law because it was good for Illinois citizens,” said Natalie E. Tennant, Manager of State Advocacy for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and former West Virginia Secretary of State. “We should not lose that momentum or the spirit of bipartisanship. Other states are watching Illinois to see that it is on track for implementation.”

“It’s disappointing to see how the implementation of automatic voter registration has been rolled out. When we passed this law unanimously, there was no indication that deadlines weren’t going to be met and that community interests weren’t going to be kept in mind,” stated House sponsor Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston). “I sincerely hope these problem can be resolved swiftly so that Illinois voters can begin to benefit from this landmark legislation in the spirit it was intended.”

“As an advocate at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, I spent the last several years fighting for automatic voter registration. We met with community partners and key stakeholders to craft this landmark legislation in a way that could get everyone on board,” added Rep. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago). “Now as a State Representative, I’m calling on the Secretary of State to implement AVR in compliance with the law without further delay.”

Just Democracy Illinois strongly recommends that all eligible voters make sure their voter registration is accurate and up to date by using the state’s online voter registration system before the October deadline.

I’ve asked White’s spokesman for comment.

*** UPDATE 1 *** From Secretary White…

My number one priority in implementing the Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) program is to ensure the integrity of the election process. The system we have designed and implemented does this.

The fact is the AVR program is up and running. It is going very well. The system is completely automated and the information provided to the Secretary of State’s office is being sent electronically to the Illinois State Board of Elections each night. Anyone who wishes to register to vote may do so.

In fact, the Illinois State Board of Elections says the registration numbers are close to double since the program went into effect July 2, 2018. According to the Illinois State Board of Elections, registration figures before AVR averaged around 31,500 a month. But since the implementation of AVR on July 2 of this year, more than 145,300 have been registered in less than three months.

We understand there are people on both sides of the political spectrum that may have issues with this new law. But my number one priority is to ensure we are protecting the integrity of the election process. I will not be intimidated by threats as we continue to move forward with this new system.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Hannah Kim, Illinois PIRG Advocate, on behalf of Just Democracy Illinois…

Despite Secretary of State White’s claim, automatic voter registration is not up and running in Illinois.

In July, the existing voter registration process at Driver Services facilities–which requires individuals to affirmatively opt-in to register–transitioned from a paper process to a fully electronic process.

This is just one change that the automatic voter registration law requires, and we celebrate its initial success.

However, modernizing opt-in voter registration is different than implementing automatic, or opt-out, registration. Secretary White failed to implement opt-out registration, the cornerstone of the law, by the July 2018 statutory deadline.

We call on Secretary White to comply with the law we fought passionately to enact by fully implementing opt-out registration by January 2019.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

8 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 10:14 am:

    Now there’s a true man-bites-dog story, knocks on Jesse White coming from Democrats.


  2. - DuPage Saint - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 10:17 am:

    I am surprised that it has not been implemented. I doubt it was done with malice. I remover that is hey had trouble getting Illinois drivers license to comply with Federal law. However I do not see what the value would be in a law suit unless they have evidence he is deliberately stalling
    And what does being on a refugee committee or immigrant rights committee have to do with voting rights unless they are citizens and being denied rights because of past status


  3. - Saluki - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 10:28 am:

    Don’t mess with Jesse.


  4. - titan - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 10:39 am:

    The SOS office is trying to deal with changes to their electronic systems to implement the Real ID program (which got behind schedule), and the timing of the AVR opt-out part was initially set to coincide with implementation of Real ID.

    The practical difference to the public is pretty slight (opt out seems to be working well to boost numbers), and the opt out portion will be up and running when Real ID is up and running.


  5. - titan - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 10:41 am:

    Sorry that should have been that the current “opt in seems to be working well to boost numbers”


  6. - MakePoliticsCoolAgain - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 11:00 am:

    As someone that has moved and changed my address with SOS in the past 6 months, I received my updated voter registration card in the mail without sending in paperwork into the Board of Elections. Folks need to realize you are working with two different systems (SOS and Board of Elections), but it is not causing such a delay it is hurting anyone’s ability to vote in November. With 43 days left, some people need to realize who/what the real problems are facing this state and work to improve those issues.


  7. - Hat Trick - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 11:23 am:

    =With 43 days left, some people need to realize who/what the real problems are facing this state and work to improve those issues.=
    How dare you imply that citizens bother to update their voter registration on their own initiative/s


  8. - priorities - Monday, Sep 24, 18 @ 12:14 pm:

    With 43 days before an election, I would think these groups would be spending their time actually registering or helping voters rather than complaining about bureaucratic hurdles they already knew existed. No one is going to be denied the right to vote because AVR isn’t fully functioning. If someone isn’t registered through AVR and they try to vote, they can participate in grace period registration or same day registration.

    Focus, people. Focus.


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