A system for automatically registering Illinoisans to vote when they obtain or update a driver’s license would increase access to the electoral process and improve the accuracy of the state’s voter rolls, Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said today.

“You improve a democracy every time you make the electoral system better,” Biss said. “And you make the electoral system better when you increase access to voting and when you increase the accuracy and the precision of the voter rolls.”

Biss was among a group of Illinois senators who called for passage of an automatic voter registration law during a Springfield news conference. They were joined by representatives of Just Democracy Illinois, a coalition that works to expand voter access.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2134, would enable eligible Illinois residents to automatically register to vote when they apply for, update or renew a driver’s license or state ID. Under current state law, residents who wish to register to vote while they renew their licenses at the DMV must fill out separate, duplicative paperwork.

The proposal would allow Illinois to streamline and simplify voter registration. It also would bring cost savings to state and local government, improve access to voting, and improve the accuracy of Illinois’ voter rolls. Oregon and California enacted similar automatic voter registration laws.

“This should be a very easy decision for the General Assembly. It will be an improvement in our democracy. It will save us money,” Biss said. “At this difficult time in state government, I would hope this is something we could pass quickly and with dispatch in both houses of the General Assembly.”

Illinois has 7.6 million registered voters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 9.7 million residents of the state 18 years of age and older.

Andy Kang, legal director for the Chicago-based Asian Americans Advancing Justice and a leader in the Just Democracy Coalition, noted that Illinois’ voter registration system has not kept up with the times.

“Our democracy works best when everyone makes his or her voice heard on Election Day, but unfortunately not everyone is heard, due in part to our outdated voter registration system,” Kang said. “Automatic voter registration will bring more voices into our elections while saving taxpayers money and preserving the integrity of our elections.”

Republican critics of similar legislation in other states contend that broadening access to voting tends to give Democrats an advantage in general elections.

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