In March 2015, Oregon became the first state in the nation to embrace automatic voter registration, California adopted the same idea soon after. This year, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut joined the small-but-growing club.
The AVR road, however, is not without roadblocks. A bill passed in New Jersey, for example, only to be vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie (R). Late last week, as the Chicago Tribune reported, Illinois’ Republican governor also balked, at least for now.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill aimed at making voter registration automatic in Illinois, citing concerns about potential voting fraud and conflicts with federal law.The first-term Republican governor said he wanted to continue negotiations with supporters to work out those issues, but groups backing the measure accused him of playing politics with his veto and said they would seek an override.
Note, automatic voter registration faced little resistance in Illinois’ Democratic-led state legislature. AVR passed the state House 86 to 30, in the state Senate, it was even more lopsided, 50 to 7.
Given those totals, state lawmakers will likely have the support necessary to make the legislation law anyway, overriding the GOP governor’s veto.
That said, Rauner insists he remains open to the idea, his veto notwithstanding, and in a statement, he said he intends to “continue working” on the idea.
To recap for those unfamiliar with the issue, regular readers may recall some of our previous coverage. The idea is pretty straightforward: when it comes to registering to vote in the United States, the burden has traditionally been on the individual – if you’re eligible to vote, it’s up to you to take the proactive steps needed to register.
What a growing number of reformers want is to flip the model, creating a system of automatic voter registration: states would automatically register eligible voters, shifting the burden away from the individual. Those who want to withdraw from the system can do so voluntarily without penalty, but otherwise, Americans would be added to the voters rolls as a matter of course.