Democrats and voting rights advocates cried foul Monday over Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s last-minute veto of a bill that would make voter registration automatic in time for the 2018 election, vowing to push for an override when lawmakers return to the Capitol in late November. Rauner, who has long said he supports expanding access to the polls, cited concerns about potential voting fraud and conflicts with federal law. He vetoed the bill on the final day to act and made his announcement Friday afternoon, a time politicians typically dump controversial news as the public’s attention is focused on the weekend. On Monday morning, Democratic state lawmakers and Cook County Clerk David Orr attempted to keep the story alive, casting the veto as a step backward for voting rights in Illinois and suggesting that Rauner was acting to protect his own political agenda.
“No offense to the governor, but I don’t buy it,” Orr said of Rauner’s assertion that a bill that passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support was flawed and in need of changes to comply with federal law. “Experts, everybody talked about this … this had all been a big discussion. The top people in both parties discussed these things. “I can find no reasonable understanding of why this would be done unless you want to get into politics,” Orr said.
The bill would have allowed state agencies to begin automatically registering new voters as early as January 2018, with people having the opportunity to opt out. Additionally, it would have allowed for an immediate update of the registration info of an estimated 700,000 existing voters ahead of the presidential election this fall, Orr said.
Both provisions could help expand voting access to college students, said state Rep. Carol Ammons, a Democrat who complained that students in her Urbana district have experienced two- and three-hour waits to complete the registration process.