Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification. “Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.”
Meanwhile, students at public universities will have an easier time casting a ballot under the new measure. The bill allows students attending public schools to change their residences from their hometowns to college campuses, giving them easier access to polling places on campus.
Republicans in the legislature cried foul, accusing Democrats of pushing through the changes in the face of a difficult political atmosphere this fall. The measure passed in the waning hours of the legislative session, which ended in May.
There is little doubt that Quinn, one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents seeking reelection this year, would benefit from increased turnout among younger voters, who tend to tilt toward Democrats. Same-day registration and expanded early voting hours, both of which correlate to higher turnout and better performance among Democrats, will only apply to this year’s election.