The new law automatically registers Illinois residents to vote when they sign up for or renew a driver’s license or state identification — unless they choose to opt out. The old law asks Illinois residents whether they want to register, which voting rights advocates say is less effective.
The measure "will remove a barrier to voter participation by modernizing the voter registration process to make it simpler and more convenient for Illinoisans to vote," Rauner said. "It’s my hope that this will increase voter participation so constituents’ voices are heard."
The new law is expected to add 2 million people to the rolls of voters, supporters said.
The measure was passed unanimously by the Illinois House and Senate.
"This bill passed with unanimous bipartisan support because it is a good government bill that makes our voter rolls cleaner and more inclusive, streamlines the process of voter registration, cuts costs associated with paper-based voter registration, and is a natural registration fraud fighter," said Cook County Clerk David Orr.
The law will be implemented in 2018.
"In the face of national attempts to limit voting rights, we are proud that Illinois is giving its residents more comprehensive access to participate in that most fundamental of democratic practices — voting," said Khadine Bennett, the advocacy and intergovernmental affairs director for the ACLU of Illinois. "Across the country, we are seeing the proof that this policy works — it boosts registration rates, makes voting more convenient, improves voter roll accuracy, and saves taxpayer dollars."
Rauner vetoed a similar measure in November, prompting lawmakers to revise the bill to address the Republican governor's concerns about voter fraud and conflicts with federal law.
To address some of the governor's concerns, license renewal or application forms now include a provision that informs Illinois residents that their signature counts as a voter registration application and gives them the option of not registering to vote.
In addition, the law allows more state agencies — including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources — to register voters.
With Rauner's action, Illinois becomes the 10th state to approve automatic voter registration, which is also law in Washington, D.C.