Voter registration hearing CopyCHICAGO — A proposal to streamline and simplify voter registration was the subject of an Illinois Senate hearing Tuesday.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) introduced the legislation, SB 2134, that would automatically register voters when they apply for, update or renew a driver’s license or state ID.

“The current process creates an unnecessary barrier for citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and it’s an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. Automatic voter registration modernizes and simplifies the process,” Manar said.

Under Illinois’ current law, if a voter wishes to register to vote at a DMV he or she must fill out separate, duplicative paperwork.

Manar introduced the proposal this spring and Tuesday’s hearing was a chance for advocates to weigh in on the value of the legislation.

“Our democracy works best when everyone participates, and we should do everything possible to make voting simple and accessible. Automatic voter registration improves accessibility, creates more accurate voter rolls and strengthens our democracy,” said Abe Scarr Director of Illinois Public Interest Research Group and a leader of the voting-rights coalition Just Democracy Illinois.

“On the heels of online and election day registration, as well as the automatic updating of hundreds of thousands of voter addresses based upon Postal Service data, this is a crucial next step for an economical modernizing of voter registration in Illinois," Cook County Clerk David Orr said.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a similar proposal Saturday, and Oregon enacted its own automatic registration law this spring. Other proposals are being advanced in Louisiana, New Jersey and 12 other states.

Driver’s license and state ID applicants must provide two documents proving residence and documents listing their signature, date of birth and Social Security number. Voter registration only requires two forms of ID, neither of which need to be proof of residency.

Traditional registration processes would also remain in place in addition to automatic registration provided by the legislation.

Manar’s legislation would allow people to opt out of the automatic registration.

Illinois has roughly 7.6 million registered voters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 9.7 million residents of the state 18 years of age and older.

The proposal would have no effect on the state’s Temporary Visitor’s Driver’s License program.

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