Three Democratic state representatives joined voting rights advocates Monday to criticize Secretary of State Jesse White for failing to implement automatic voter registration in time for the November election — but the critics and White disagreed on whether the matter will wind up in court. Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, and Rep. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, led the news conference at the Thompson Center criticizing White, who is currently seeking his sixth term. White’s rollout of the program was initially planned for July, and would have been complete ahead of November’s general election. But after delays, it is now expected to be in place by mid-year 2019, according to White’s office.
The first phase of the program updated the registration process from a paper-based system to electronic, but hasn’t yet implemented “opt-out” automatic registration. Under the automatic voter registration process, eligible voters who visit Secretary of State facilities will be automatically registered unless they opt out.
“We think the vast majority of the heavy lifting has been done,” Dave Druker, a spokesman for White, said. “I don’t think that people are being hurt, if they want to register the option is very available.”
One reason the program wasn’t completed for the original July deadline was it’s connection to the rollout of Real ID, a federal identification program that Illinois is set to comply with by “early spring” next year, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Illinois was one of the states that requested an extension to comply with the program. Automatic voter registration became integrated with the Real ID program because it would verify the voter’s citizenship status and age without having the voter doubly asked those same questions.