Secretary of State Jesse White Talks Tumblers, Real ID and More

This month marks the 60th anniversary of one of Chicago’s most popular performance groups: the Jesse White Tumblers.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White founded the Tumblers in 1959 and has been running the group ever since. It’s brought Chicago gymnasts to places all over the world, while providing mentorship and academic support. More than 18,000 young people have participated in the Tumblers since its inception. 

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“We take the best and the brightest,” White said Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight.” “We teach our young people to love their fellow woman and man.”

In addition to being talented gymnasts and following that creed, tumblers must not drink, smoke or swear, they have to maintain at least C average in school.

The Tumblers are just one of White’s responsibilities. His office is currently overseeing the state’s Real ID program, a federal initiative required by October 2020 to board domestic flights. Flyers can also use a U.S. passport.

White, who was first elected secretary of state in 1998, had previously talked about retiring but said that his sixth term will be his last.

“It’s lead-pipe cinch, I’m not going to run again,” he said Tuesday.

The former U.S. Army paratrooper said he will fulfil the remainder of that term and stay in office through 2022.

“You don’t jump out of an airplane and stop halfway, it’s all the way. I plan to go all the way,” he said. “I’m happy about the fact that when people come to my (driver’s license) facility they say I was only in there for 10 minutes; I was only in there 15 minutes.”

But some residents have had to wait hours to get a Real ID. Per federal law, either a passport of the new form of ID will be required in order to board a plane come October 2020. Illinois residents who want to get a Real ID can visit a Secretary of State Driver Services facility to prove their citizenship and residence.

White announced earlier this month that several Chicago and northern Illinois offices will extend their hours to accommodate the increased volume due to the rollout. 

The office has also come under scrutiny from advocates for Automatic Voter Registration, which should be in effect by now per a 2017 law.

White’s office says that AVR has been fully implemented, and that driver’s license facilities have registered 670,000 voters since its inception.

But advocates say the secretary of state’s office has failed to make the process as streamlined as it should be, given that two signatures are still required in order for someone to register to vote – and they’re threatening possible legal action.

A spokesman for White said the two-signature requirement is not burdensome, and that the office does not feel like anybody has been disenfranchised by the second signature, in which a voter confirms citizenship and state residency. 

“We feel we’re enforcing the law,” White spokesman Dave Druker said.

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