Anyone with a valid driver’s license or state identification card will be able to register to vote online beginning July 1, 2014.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, signed a bill into law Saturday that will make Illinois the 18th state to allow electronic voter registration. The Chicago Tribune reports that the anyone with a valid driver’s license or state identification card will be able to register online beginning July 1, 2014.
The new system will allow Illinois residents to use a driver’s license or state-issued ID to register online. They will then be required to enter the date the ID was issued and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
In order to cut down on possible fraud, this information will then be cross-referenced with existing voter registration databases and a list run by the secretary of state’s office that catalogs the signatures of those who have received state IDs.
It sounds complicated, but proponents of the bill say that it will actually speed up the voter registration process, lower costs and cut down on paperwork. Online registration can cost as little as 3 cents — compared with 83 cents for those who opt for the old-fashioned hard copy registration. It will likely add up to thousands of dollars in savings for the state.
Some civic engagement groups believe that increasing electronic voter registration will also cut down on long lines and problems on election day. States like Florida have histories with long lines at polling places, with some waiting as long as six hours to cast a ballot during the 2012 presidential election.
The Fair Elections Network reports, “People sign their names on electronic signature pads millions of times a day. It is a long-standing, secure technology that increases eﬃciency and saves money. If this technology were applied to allow voters to sign voter registration forms electronically, it could revolutionize voter registration.”
Florida, like many states, already asks citizens to sign their names on electronic signature pads rather than paper when registering to vote or updating their registrations at motor vehicle agencies. The group claims that making the jump to full electronic registration is not only safe, it’s in part a de facto reality in places that already utilize electronic signatures.
Some believe that the new bill will also help increase youth participation in elections. Other states have enjoyed stronger youth turnout after implementing electronic registration measures.
Governing magazine reports that in one month of electronic voter registration in California before the 2012 election, more than 600,000 new voters registered online.
“We thought that was quite striking,” Mindy Romero, project director for the California Civic Engagement Project, said to Governing.
She reports that residents under age 25 accounted for 30 percent of all online registrants — spurring an 8 percent increase in voter registration in that age bracket.
Not all lawmakers are convinced that the bill is good for state politics.
“There are some good things in this bill, but I think there are more negatives than positives,” said Sen. Dan Duffy, a Republican. “It’s typical Chicago politics, coming in and overriding the voice and concerns of the people of Lake County.”
It’s unclear whether it will solve problems many Illinois counties have experienced with the voting rolls in recent years.
The Huffington Post reported in 2011 that 14 of the state’s 102 counties had more registered voters than voting-age residents. It’s not necessarily a sign of electoral fraud, but it could point to problems with updating records.
The 2011 report claimed that Rock Island County listed 125,875 registered voters compared with Census data showing only 114,359 residents aged 18 years of age or older at the time — a difference of 11,516 people.
Critics of the new Illinois law also point to changes it makes in Illinois campaign finance laws. The bill lifted certain limits on spending by political action committees.
Previously, limits on how much individuals and PACs can give are removed for all candidates if a super PAC spends $250,000 on a statewide race or $100,000 on a lower office. Under the new law, those limits would be lifted if total spending by all super PACs in a race reaches those amounts.