Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Illinois Passes New Voter Law

Illinois citizens will now be automatically registered to vote thanks to a new law sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Andy Manar and passed by Governor Bruce Rauner.
When a citizen becomes eligible to vote they will be registered, through an electronic system, when they apply for a driver’s license or state ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). According to Mother Jones magazine, since Oregon enacted automatic voter registration last year, they’ve had approximately 200,000 new voters — the highest increase of voter turnout in the country. Illinois has become the tenth state to pass a law like this.
A study published in May by the Pew Research Center shows “only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population was registered in 2016… compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2016), 96% in Sweden (2014), and nearly 99% in Japan (2014).” Low voter registration is one of the causes of low voter turnout. There is expected to be an increase of voter turnout because of this law.
Professor David Dehnel in the political science department said, “In the United States we have an unusually difficult system for voter registration. Most countries have automatic voter registrations of one form or another…. We have too many obstacles to voting in the United States, that are unnecessary, that serve no purpose.”
While this is a step in the right direction, Dehnel believes the U.S. can do more. There are still many citizens who do not own a driver’s license and will have to register on their own.
“I think students should take this opportunity in attending college to expand their horizons as citizens…. I think it’s one of the opportunities that college students have is to get a better sense of what it is to be a citizen,” said Dehnel.
The Special Assistant to President Bahls, Kai Swanson, said, “One of the core tenets of Augustana is that we seek for our students to be engaged citizens. And in the context of the United States, one of the very fundamental ways to be engaged is to vote.” Swanson also said that Augustana tries to help make voting registration easier for its students.
It can be difficult to know where the proper places to vote are, or if you are already registered. Taylor Campbell, a junior and CSD and Environmental studies major, is not sure if she is currently registered to vote. She saw the booths in the Brew, but was not sure if she had what was required to register. Campbell emphasized how they should’ve made voter registration much easier in the past, “I just need a piece of paper that says ‘Here’s where you can register to vote at Augustana. Here’s what you’ll need’ and then bullet points of what you’ll need with you… Step 1, 2, and 3.”
She would like to register to vote, and she believes that voting is very important on every level of government, but the process needs to be made easier for beginners.
Republican Governor Bruce Rauner originally vetoed the bill last year, however this time it passed unanimously.  “I think this is a great example of bipartisanship in the state of Illinois that shows a commitment to the democratic ideal of voting as a fundamental right for all citizens. It’s nice to see laws being passed that expand the ability of people to vote instead of limit it or make it difficult,” said Margaret Kunde, a professor of communication studies.
Swanson said, “One part of me hopes that it still is a physical act of going someplace or having someone come to you… But to the extent possible I think we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that an election day is a community event. It’s a chance to physically place your body somewhere that says ‘Hey, democracy matters to me.’ My voting place is Saint Pious Church in Rock Island and I get to see all of the lovely people who are volunteers, it’s pretty cool. These are retired folks that I usually only see on Election Day and there’s a sense of community!”

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Illinois Passes New Voter Law