Just Democracy Illinois just sent legal notice to Jesse White's office about Automatic Voter Registration

This morning, members of the non-partisan Just Democracy coalition, including Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, sent a letter to Secretary of State Jesse White’s Office that outlines the agency’s violations of state and federal law in its flawed implementation of automatic voter registration (AVR) in Illinois.

Our letter states that the Sec. of State’s office is violating Illinois’ AVR law, as well as the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), by unnecessarily requiring eligible voters to provide duplicative personal information, and by delaying its implementation by more than five months past the law’s deadline. The Sec. of State’s office will have 90 days to resolve these violations with concrete steps - otherwise our coalition will need to file litigation.

Just Democracy has said that to fulfill the promise of AVR, Illinois government leaders must implement the law in a strong, timely, and community-centered manner. After over a year of engagement with the Sec. of State’s office that yielded few meaningful results and incomplete implementation, we held a press conference in September making our concerns public.

“Cumbersome registration processes disproportionately affect communities of color,” says Ami Gandhi of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

“Every election, we hear from numerous eligible voters who face registration barriers and who need better access to voter registration.”

According to United States Census Bureau data, race disparity in voter registration in Illinois is higher than the national average. Voter registration rates for Black, Hispanic, and Asian citizens lag behind the registration rate for White citizens in the state. In passing the AVR Statute, Illinois government and community leaders recognized that making voter registration automatic could help to narrow gaps in access to voter registration and increase civic engagement.

The AVR law, which contains safeguards so that only citizens are added to the voter rolls, passed the legislature with unanimous bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August 2017. The law required the Sec. of State’s office to implement AVR by July 1 of this year, but the agency has failed to make the process “automatic.” As a result, unknown numbers of eligible voters missed the opportunity to vote in the November 2018 midterm and could miss important elections in early 2019 as well.