Illinois Moves to Expand Voting Rights

Same‑Day Registration in Illinois is now permanent.

Yesterday afternoon, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 172 (SB 172), a sweeping election bill that allows voters to register and vote on Election Day, expands early voting, offers grace period registration on university campuses, and modernizes current registration processes. This bill’s passage follows the successful implementation of the state’s pilot program this past November, for which nearly 9,000 residents either registered anew or updated their existing records before casting a ballot.

Highlights of SB 172 include the following:

  • Grace Period Registration, Illinois’ late registration program, will now extend through Election Day, and must be provided at all early voting sites at in-precinct polling locations.  Elections officials may also establish additional registration and voting locations that serve as universal registration locations for anyone in that particular jurisdiction;
  • An extension of Early Voting through the Monday prior to Election Day. Permanent sites must be open beginning on the 15th day prior to an election, including Saturdays and Sundays;
  • Early Voting and Grace Period Registration on college campuses will be made available in Student Unions from Wednesday through Saturday before a General Election, beginning at 10:00am until 7:00pm;
  • SB 172 officially designates absentee voting, both by mail and in person, under the term “Vote by Mail.”
  • Illinois will join the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) system beginning in 2016, and as well, will now require all government websites to link to the statewide online voter registration.

The passage of Same-Day Registration in Illinois brings an element of hope while the country is laboring to process and effectively respond to the grand jury decisions surrounding the recent Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases. Both cases are unfortunate reflections of why it is essential that all citizens be able to exercise their voice through the ballot, so as to have a fuller say in both the officials that represent them, and the manners and policies through which they do so.

Illinois joins 13 other states plus the District of Columbia in advancing this fundamental mission.

Kudos to Illinois, and onward for the rest of us.

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