Illinois Senate Democrats have proposed a plan to automatically register qualified residents to vote when they apply for a drivers license or some other form of state ID unless they decline. The current law requires someone to opt in. Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said his proposal would reduce red tape, save money and increase voter participation. “The current process creates an unnecessary barrier for citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” Manar told a Senate subcommittee last week. “And it’s an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.” Critics worry that it might lead to registering noncitizens, increasing voter fraud and expense, and lengthening lines at drivers license facilities.
Oregon became the nation’s first state to adopt an automatic registration policy last spring without a single Republican vote in favor of the bill. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed a similar law last week.
The plan in Democratic-leaning Illinois contrasts with efforts in many Republican-led states in recent years to restrict voter eligibility, such as by requiring voters to show specific forms of ID. Republicans say they are fighting fraud; Democrats say such fraud is rare and the real GOP goal is disenfranchising groups that tend to support Democrats.