A sweeping new election law that was intended to increase voter turnout in time for the presidential contest and a critical U.S. Senate race may instead cause greater frustration among voters due to Illinois lawmakers’ inability to agree on a budget, with officials warning of possible long lines, fewer safeguards against voter fraud and other costly headaches come November. The bill, pushed through the Legislature in the final weeks of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s term, required several changes that traditionally benefit Democrats, such as same-day voter registration and expanded early voting. While those pieces of the law will be in place come Nov. 8, some local election officials say they’ve stuck with the bill for additional equipment and staffing. And the nearly $4 million that state election officials said they’d need in the first two years for other changes wasn’t approved by the Legislature. The standoff between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and majority
Democrats over the state budget — now approaching its 10th month — has only made matters worse by delaying an overhaul of the state’s voter registration system and data updates that are critical to cleaning up the list of eligible voters.
“This will have consequences on all the election officials in the state, all the county clerks,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr, who advocated for the law. “But the worst part is it has negative consequences on the voters.”
Without the needed funding, state election officials will likely miss critical deadlines, including one to alert more than 2 million people who are eligible to vote but are not registered how they can do so. Three contractors tasked with updating Illinois’ voter registration database haven’t been paid since July 1. They’ve continued to come to work, but “that could change at any moment,” said Kevin Turner, director of information technology for the Illinois State Board of Elections.