Senate Democrats pushed through legislation Thursday that would automatically register drivers to vote when they get their licenses, a change supporters argued would eliminate red tape and get more people to the polls. Republicans were fiercely opposed, saying eligibility should be tightened by requiring voters to show photo identification before they could register. Doing so, they contended, would prevent voter fraud and keep illegal immigrants from voting — arguments Democrats said were solutions in search of a problem. “The notion that voter fraud is rampant in Illinois is just unproven and undocumented,” said Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who has pushed bills supporting online and same-day voter registration and pointed out that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke in favor of the concept just hours earlier.
During an appearance in Springfield, the governor stopped short of saying he’d back the bill, but said he was a “big fan of simplifying the voter registration process.”
“It’s a big part of making democracy work. I’m very supportive of everybody who should be voting, get them registered and get them voting,” Rauner said.
But GOP lawmakers said those who want a say in elections should be willing to take any steps necessary to participate. “At some point citizens of this country need to say, ‘I want to be involved in the process so much that I’m going to make the effort to stand up and verify who I am,’ and say, ‘I want to be part of this process,'” said Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon.