Issues: State Election Laws
Position in Brief
The League of Women Voters supports uniformity of election laws and procedures throughout the state. Registration and voting methods should ensure the integrity of the election system, maximize voters’ unencumbered access to the ballot, preserve the secrecy of the ballot and ensure accurate and timely vote tabulation. Citizens should have the right to file complaints and writs of mandamus to force compliance with election laws.
The League opposes any legislation that would require a declaration of party at the time of registration or at any time prior to a primary election. A voter’s selection of a party’s ballot in one primary should not be binding beyond that election. See LWVIL's Where We Stand 2013-2015 for detailed positions.
Our activity on election laws reflects both national and state positions as stated fully in LWVUS’s Impact on Issues and LWVIL’s Where We Stand 2013-2015.
Illinois’ election laws and issues dealing with voter registration and the administration of elections were a League action priority from the early 1990s through 2007. During this time LWVIL conducted several studies and took action on election-related issues through litigation and legislative changes.
In response to the perceived problems surrounding the November 2000 general election, LWVIL created the Election Administration Reform Committee. The committee spent six years examining Illinois’ election administration and monitoring the implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act in Illinois. Two pieces of legislation initiated by the EAR committee were enacted.
Since 2007 the League’s work relating to election laws has been limited to tracking proposed legislation and taking action when needed. The General Assembly continues to deal with changes in the Election Code (law) by placing many election-related bills into a single Omnibus Elections bill and passing it near the end of the session, making it difficult to take effective action. Early in 2012 the League submitted a letter to the Illinois Senate Executive committee objecting to proposed legislation to reduce the hours the polls would be open. The committee “gutted” the bill. It was not revived. The League took no action on the 2012 Omnibus Elections bill.
The League will continue to support efforts that ease citizens’ access to the election process and to oppose any actions that erect barriers to voting, such as requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID in the polling place or the misuse of provisional ballots. The League will oppose placing restrictions on voter registration drives by third parties. The League will be alert to voter suppression activities that attempt to intimidate voters by using misinformation about voting rules and procedures. Knowledge about the use of these tactics in Illinois is limited. It is likely to become available when the 2012 election reports are released.
SB2134 remains in the Senate Executive Committee. The legislation would give persons the opportunity to register to vote when they apply to the Secretary of State’s office for a driver’s license or permit. The legislation has both supporters and opponents. To date, the League has taken no position on this legislation.
The State Board of Elections had on its March 14th agenda the consideration of the proposed Rules of Procedure for Statewide Constitutional Amendments. If adopted by the board these rules will be applied to the petitions now being gathered by the League, and others, supporting the Independent Map petition drive.
On June 27, the State Board of Elections announced that online voter registration was available in Illinois. Since that date usage of the Paperless Online Voter Application (POVA) site has increased. Early in September, SBE reported that nearly 6,000 individuals had applied to register to vote. Of this number, over 93% of applications contained information that matched the Secretary of State’s database.
As of Sept. 24, SBE indicated that in excess of 12,000 individuals have applied to register to vote using the POVA site. A recent staff report says that the system is functioning very well and that they have received many positive comments.
This session’s Omnibus Election Laws bill (HB105) was signed by the governor on July 1. It included a number of changes affecting election procedures. Among the changes are some that apply only to the November 2014 election: 1) extending early voting through the Sunday before the election; 2) longer early voting hours during the final week; 3) extending the grace period registration at limited sites on the Sunday and Monday before Election Day; and, 4) same day registration at limited sites on Election Day. The bill also covered other election-related matters such as rules for filing nominating papers and objectors’ petitions, distribution of precinct maps and rules relating to provisional voting.
On June 27 the State Board of Elections announced that online voter registration was available. Any individual may apply to register online by accessing the home page of the State Board of Elections at www.elections.il.gov.
HB3199 became Public Act 98-0773, which provides that school districts are encouraged to close school or hold a teachers’ institute day when a school building is used as a polling place. It also provides that a government agency which makes a public building under its control available for use as a polling place shall 1) ensure the portion of the building to be used as the polling place is accessible to handicapped and elderly voters; and 2) allow the election authority to administer the election.
HB3816 became Public Act 98-0794 on July 29. It creates the Tax for Education Referendum Act. It provides that the State Board of Elections shall cause a statewide advisory question of public policy to be submitted to the voters at the general election to be held on November 4, 2014, asking whether the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than $1,000,000. This question is one of the three referenda that will appear on the ballot statewide.
There are no other election laws bills that we are watching. However, it is possible that some legislation that remains in committee may be called in the veto session.