Lawmakers Again Call For Suspension Of Automatic Voter Registration

Mar 12, 2020

Republicans are renewing their call to suspend Automatic Voter Registration after more problems with the system came to light this week.

Earlier this year, it came out that several people who self-identified as non-citizens were permitted to vote. Now, more than 1,100 actual citizens in Illinois were improperly classified as having opted out of voter registration — potentially denying them their right to vote.

State Rep. Tim Butler, a Republican from Springfield, said he believes even more people might have been affected.

“When you talk to the Sangamon County Clerk, he says there were over 100 related to him that were an issue, but the State Board of Elections said it was more than 20,” Butler said. “So I think there is probably more than that 1,100 across the state.”

State Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) and Tim Butler (R-Springfield) address issues related to AVR
Credit Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

In addition to calling for a suspension, Republicans want another meeting between Secretary of State Jesse White and local election authorities. They are questioning whether the Illinois secretary of state’s office can handle being in charge of AVR.

Butler said the agency’s front-line staff already have their hands full performing other duties.

“They are tasked with many other things like renewing your driver’s licenses, figuring out REAL ID vs. non REAL ID, your state ID, and getting registration for your car,” Butler said. “They have a lot of other things to do other than registering people to vote.”

Rep. Avery Bourne, a Republican from Raymond, joined Butler in saying AVR should be put on hold. But she said she doesn’t think the glitch will depress voter turnout.

“I think it could make it more complicated to vote,” Bourne said. “If the purpose of AVR was to make it easier for people to register to vote, then bungling these things is making it more difficult.”

Although the secretary of state’s office said the problem will be repaired by the time of Illinois’ primary election on March 17th, people who were affected might have to vote using same-day registration.

Republicans are also calling for an independent audit of the statewide voter database. They essentially say they don’t trust Auditor General Frank Mautino, who was a former top House Democratic lawmaker, and has been the subject of complaints to the Illinois State Board of Elections over campaign spending.

They also say the automatic voter registration system should be suspended, fixed, and back up and running by the end of 2021.

A spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said they are willing to work with lawmakers to correct problems in the AVR system, which has registered more than 875,000 voters in Illinois.