First Phase of Automatic Voter Registration Now Underway in Illinois

Eligible voters in Illinois can now register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It’s part of the Automatic Voter Registration process, or AVR. The Illinois Secretary of State’s Office on Monday rolled out the first part of AVR – called “opt-in.”

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Here’s how it work: When you go to a DMV office to get a new driver’s license or state ID, your names will be checked against the state’s voter rolls. If your voting registration information isn’t up to date, you’ll be asked if you’d like to renew it. If you chose to do so, two questions will appear on a touch pad: one asks about U.S. citizenship, and another asks whether you’re at least 18 years old. You’ll then be asked to sign the touchpad under an attestation for voter eligibility.

“So it’s the same thing as a paper voter registration application, just now all on the touchpad, and it will be automatically transferred to election authorities,” said Hannah Kim, a public interest advocate at Illinois PIRG, a consumer group that spearheaded the advocacy effort to pass AVR in Illinois.

Kim said the legislation makes registering to vote simpler, faster and more efficient. 

“This upgrade should help reduce the potential for error as well,” she said.

On top of that, more than one million eligible, yet unregistered, voters are expected to be registered with AVR, according to a report by Demos, a public policy organization.

The AVR implementation process doesn’t stop there; by January 2019, an “opt-out” phase is expected to roll out. That will allow residents to select one box on the application if they choose not to register.

By July 2019, the “opt-in” feature will be available at other state agencies, including the Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The Illinois General Assembly approved AVR in 2017, making Illinois the 10th state to enact the policy. Oregon became the first in 2015.

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