The Illinois state legislature has unanimously approved a bill that would automatically register eligible voters throughout the state. If the bill is signed into law, Illinois would become the ninth state (plus the District of Columbia) to pass automatic voter registration reforms.
The bill in Illinois was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Robyn Gavel in hopes of modernizing the state’s registration system and stimulate electoral participation.
Automatic voter registration is common sense, and should be enacted in every state. The United States has an abysmal voter turnout record compared to the rest of the developed word. Only 55.7 percent of eligible voters in America cast a ballot for the 2016 presidential election. Comparatively, in the country with the highest percentage for voter turnout, Belgium, 87.2 percent of eligible citizens vote. The recent French election saw the lowest voter turnout there since 1974 at 65.3 percent, a figure that still blows the U.S. out of the water.
Eliminating the cumbersome, bureaucratic process of registering to vote in the U.S. is a no brainer. Who could possibly be against?
Drum roll please… Republicans. Republican Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar version of the bill last year, citing bogus “voter fraud” concerns. Following President Trump’s bizarre and ludicrous claims that “millions of illegals” voted for Hillary Clinton, The Brennan Center for Justice found this year after an exhaustive examination that voter fraud is incredibly rare, even calling it a “myth.” There is simply no evidence that voter fraud has played any role whatsoever in any recent election in the United States.
Republican opposition to common sense reforms like automatic voter registration need to be called out for what they really are: cowardly attempts to suppress voting, particularly for low-income and minority people who are more likely to support Democrats.
This is nothing new. Republicans have been pushing voter ID laws and more cumbersome obstacles to voting, ostensibly to deter voter fraud, that disproportionately affect low-income and minority Americans for some time now. Republican lawmakers in North Carolina infamously used voting data to craft legislation specifically aimed at suppressing the black vote in an attempt to give their party an advantage.
While Republicans yammer about “integrity” in the voting process, suppressing the vote destroys the integrity of elections far more than imaginary voter fraud. Opposition to these common sense election reform measures is fundamentally undemocratic and about as lowly as it gets.