"THE RIGHT to vote is foundational for the rights of Americans in our democracy." It was refreshing to hear that fundamental fact about the importance of voting to American democracy given full voice by a Republican officeholder. Even better was that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's words were accompanied by his signature last Monday on a bill that will remove obstacles to balloting by allowing automatic voter registration. In not going along with the general aversion of his party to making voting easier, Mr. Rauner sets an example that other states should follow.
Illinois became the 10th state, along with the District, to move to modernize its system of voter registration through automatic registration. Under the measure, individuals eligible to vote who interact with government agencies (such as the department of motor vehicles) will be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. The system of automatic registration, first enacted by Oregon in 2015, not only boosts registration rates and makes voting more convenient, it also reduces errors and the potential for fraud. "Everybody wins in this system," Chicago Election Board Commissioner Jonathan Swain said of the ability to register more voters with less paperwork and expense.
The fact that more states haven't gone to automatic registration — and that some are opting to make voting even more difficult through strict new laws on photo ID requirements and other restrictions — is clearly a function of partisan political interests. Republicans see better electoral prospects when the number of voters decreases; hence their efforts to suppress participation from minorities and other constituencies seen as favoring Democrats.
Republicans have the gall to say their efforts are aimed at strengthening voter integrity, but the claims of widespread voter fraud they use to justify photo ID laws, elimination of early voting and the formation of a presidential commission have no basis in fact. Good, then, that Mr. Rauner did not toe his party's line, but instead recognized that this is an issue that should transcend political affiliations. "We as a people," he said, "need to do everything we can to knock down barriers, remove hurdles for all those who are eligible to vote, to be able to vote." If only his fellow Republicans would listen.
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