Automatic Voter Registration

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In late May Senate Bill 250 passed both chambers and will soon be sent to the Governor for signature.

The key feature of the bill is to allow for the automatic registration of eligible voters (or updating the registration for voters who have moved) after interacting with one of the five state agencies that currently participate in the “motor voter” program: the Secretary of State, Department of Aging, Department of Employment Security, Department of Human Services and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. These new provisions are to be implemented no later than January 1, 2018. The bill allows for the State Board of Elections to allow other agencies to participate as well, for example the Department of Revenue.

After interacting with one of the participating agencies the agency will electronically send all of the relevant information to the State Board of Elections who will review the information and then send it to the local election authority who will make the final determination for properly registering the voter. The bill lays out the procedures for validating eligibility, notification when a participant is not eligible and there are explicit protections in place so that a previously registered voter may still vote a full ballot in the event that an automatic change in that voter’s registration causes an error in their registration.

Here are a few of the bill’s other features:

  • The State Board of Elections and participating government agencies must implement policies and procedures to protect the privacy and security of the data being transmitted between agencies.
  • The agencies are directed to adopt practices to protect the information of individuals, such as domestic violence survivors, who have order of protection or otherwise need to keep their personal information off of a publicly available voter list.
  • The State Board will submit an annual report specifying the number of various types of transmittals and registrations specified by the bill.
  • State agency and election authority websites will be updated to include information about the new registration procedures.
  • The State Board of Elections is required to hold at least one public hearing by January 1, 2017.
  • If an ineligible voter is accidentally registered automatically through no fault of their own they are not deemed to have committed a crime.


Thank you to Abe Scarr of Illinois PIRG for sharing your bill analysis with me.

General Election Filing Roundup

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Most candidates qualify for the general election ballot by winning the primary but in races where no candidate filed and won a primary the party chairmen can appoint a candidate to fill the vacancy. Those appointed candidates still have to go get petition signatures so it’s not a labor free process, established party candidates for the House need 500 signatures and 1,000 for the Senate, but it’s a far cry from the almost 600,000 signatures the Independent Maps group just turned in so it’s not overly difficult either. The deadline for established political parties (Democrat, Republican) to appoint candidates and file their candidate paperwork was yesterday May 31st.

While budget and end of session news dominated the day, and rightfully so, the most surprising development of filing day was just how few new candidates filed. Only one new Senate Republican candidate filed and that was in the 22nd for the open seat to replace Mike Noland. The House Republicans had two new candidates file, one in the 111th to take on Dan Beiser and one in the 43rd to take on Anna Moeller. Surprisingly no Republicans filed in the 116th to take on Jerry Costello despite the fact that his district is the most mathematically favorable Republican district currently held by a Democrat based on the 2014 vote totals.

The Senate Democrats had two new candidates file, one in the 32nd to take on Pam Althoff and one in the 26th to take on Dan McConchie. The House Democrats led the day having three new candidates file, one in the 48th to take on Peter Breen, another in the 50th to take on Keith Wheeler and one in the 110th to take on Reggie Phillips.

The most significant development of the day is that the Republicans do not have enough candidates on the ballot in the Illinois Senate to win control of the chamber. There are currently 20 Republicans in the Senate and they would need to win 10 more seats to have a majority in the chamber but of the 29 Democratic Senators up for re-election this fall only 9 will face a Republican opponent. Governor Rauner has struggled to pass his agenda through the General Assembly controlled by Democrats resulting in a multi-year stalemate and despite committing millions of dollars of his own money to electing more Republicans this fall he is guaranteed to have to find a way forward with an Illinois Senate that will be controlled by the Democrats for the remainder of his current term. The Republicans do have enough candidates on the ballot in the House to attempt to win control of that chamber.

Our tracker for General Assembly races that could or will be targeted races is up to date with all of yesterday’s new filings.