Today, Illinois took its first step forward in implementing automatic voter registration statewide. The Illinois Secretary of the State officially launched Opt-In voter registration at all Drivers Services facilities in the state.
What does this mean?
A fully-electronic process for “Opt-In” automatic voter registration is now available at all Illinois Driver Services facilities (more commonly known as the DMV). This means registering to vote at the DMV is easier and more accurate than ever. This does NOT mean that you’re automatically registered to vote when you engage in Driver Services (e..g, renew your license, register vehicle, etc.).
Rather, “Opt-In” Voter Registration means that eligible voters can now choose to be registered to vote while engaging in a different service at the DMV, without a paper application.
What is automatic voter registration again—why does it matter?
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is a reform to modernize the voter registration process that’s swept the nation in just the last few years. Illinois PIRG led the advocacy effort alongside partners in the Just Democracy IL coalition to pass AVR in Illinois. The bill was signed into law last summer, after ultimately making it through both state chambers with unanimous bipartisan support. We remain actively involved in ensuring the policy is now implemented well throughout the state across this next year.
In practice, AVR modernizes by using available new technology to digitize the registration process, rather than relying on paper voter registration forms only—reducing errors and decreasing costs.
It also works more efficiently—by using existing applications for a license, permit, program, or other service, as the basis of a voter registration application, second application solely for the purpose of registering voters is made redundant. The latest upgrade also means individuals will now be informed of their voter registration status on the spot, and if they're already registered, at which address they are registered.
With AVR, the state saves money, improves accuracy of voter rolls, brings more citizens into the democratic process, and increases the efficiency of doing so. In Illinois, it’s estimated that more than 1 million eligible voters could be securely added to the rolls through this simple policy change.
How does this work in Illinois with Opt-In Registration?
When you head into an SOS Drivers Services facility for whatever service you need, your name is automatically run against the SBOE voter list as you engage in the process of completing that service. If your name is not found on the voter list as an active registered voter, you'll be asked if you want to register to vote.
If you say yes, you can do so on the spot, but you'll first be asked to confirm on a touchpad the following:
- I am a U.S. Citizen
- I will be 18 yrs old or older by the next general election.
Then you sign the touchpad, under an attestation that you are indeed eligible to register to vote, just like when you sign a paper voter registration application.
If I still have to do the steps above to register to vote, what part of this is "automatic"?
With Opt-In registration, instead of having to forward paper hard copies of voter applications (and increasing the chance of human error), your voter registration application is now automatically and electronically transmitted from Drivers Services to the state board of elections.
There’s still more phases of automatic voter registration to come, and next is “Opt-Out” registration. Similar to the Opt-In registration process launched today, Opt-Out registration will also be completely electronic. Unlike what was launched today, Opt-Out registration will not require each eligible voter to engage in quite as many steps to complete the registration process.
Originally, the community and advocates instrumental behind passing AVR in Illinois believed that Opt-Out would also be launched today. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case. While disappointing, we remain committed to advocating for continued effective implementation of Automatic Voter Registration, that takes into account the needs of the public.
Can I still register myself directly?
Yes! Until AVR is fully implemented, it’s still strongly recommended that all eligible voters make sure they are registered to vote at their current address! You can still register to vote ONLINE anytime at https://ova.elections.il.gov/
But if you did go to renew your license at Driver Services (aka DMV), and also took a second to register to vote—tell us how it went here!