As we look hopefully for areas where our Democratic governor and Republican-majority legislative houses can find common ground in the budget process, we think we’ve found one.
Gov. Tony Evers’ budget requires the state Elections Commission to work with the Department of Transportation to implement an automatic voter registration “as quickly as practicable.”
Given the advocacy for Voter ID laws from Republicans in the Legislature, this would seem to be an area where Republican and Democratic interests can meet.
Under Illinois’ automatic voter registration model, when you go to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get a new driver’s license or state ID, your name is checked against the state’s voter rolls, WTTW.com reported in July. If your voting registration information isn’t up to date, you are asked if you’d like to renew it. If you chose to do so, two questions will appear on a touchpad: one asks about U.S. citizenship, and another asks whether you’re at least 18 years old. You are then asked to sign the touchpad under an attestation for voter eligibility.
In 2018, nearly 187,000 people were registered to vote from July 1 to November through the state’s automatic voter registration system, the state Board of Elections said in a report to the Illinois General Assembly.
Voter ID laws are advocated as a defense against voter impersonation, also sometimes called in-person voter fraud. That’s when a person ineligible to vote does so by voting under the name of another eligible voter or a person who is eligible, to vote a second or more times by otherwise pretending to be another eligible voter.
With automatic voter registration, a database would be created at the state level verifying that each holder of a driver’s license or state ID is, in fact, eligible to vote.
In other words, automatic voter registration is Voter ID.
One of Evers’ budget proposals — an idea that, in the city of Racine, has received legislative support — is for driver’s licenses and state IDs for those here without documentation. While we grant that there is merit in having everyone driving on our roads licensed, we would not be in favor of such driver’s licenses or state IDs being eligible for use as a Voter ID. The right to vote must remain reserved for U.S. citizens.
But automatic voter registration should put to rest any concerns about voter impersonation or in-person voter fraud. The presentation of a state-issued identification card would verify that person’s eligibility to vote.
We’re hopeful that all members of the state Assembly and Senate see it that way.