A federal lawsuit has raised questions about whether Illinois’ new Election Day voter registration rules are constitutional, a situation that could complicate how polling sites are run this November. Illinois tested same-day registration in the 2014 governor’s race, with all election authorities required to offer it in at least one location. It was popular, with long lines on Election Night, particularly in Chicago. When lawmakers made same-day registration permanent the next year, they expanded it, ordering highly populated areas to make it available at all polls. That change is at the heart of a federal lawsuit brought by Republicans, who argue it’s an unfair and unequal system because voters in less populated and GOP-leaning areas don’t have equal access. They’re asking a judge to end all precinct-level Election Day registration, which would impact voters in 21 of 102 counties and five cities: Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, Bloomington and East St. Louis.
“It seemed obviously unfair to skew election results in this way,” said Jacob Huebert, an attorney with an organization representing a north-central Illinois Republican congressional candidate and party committee. “The purpose is obviously to boost Democratic turnout relative to Republican turnout.”
Democrats dismissed the allegations on turnout, and voters’ rights groups have fought back. Five, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, filed a brief in court Wednesday, suggesting such a change in a presidential-election year would create chaos and “leave thousands of people unable to vote,” Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement.
The next court hearing is Sept. 27, though the judge could rule earlier.