The GOP loves to moralize about securing the sanctity of the electoral process. In Illinois, for example, Republicans in Lake County and in Springfield fought last year to protect against the scourge that is (non-existent) voter fraud. But when given the opportunity to extend ...
The GOP loves to moralize about securing the sanctity of the electoral process. In Illinois, for example, Republicans in Lake County and in Springfield fought last year to protect against the scourge that is (non-existent) voter fraud. But when given the opportunity to extend voting rights, especially to communities largely excluded from the political process, they often stand in the way or simply sit on the sideline. A new bill Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on Friday provides a great example.
Currently, state law requires that all registration applications be filed 29 days before Election Day. For the last five years, however, Illinois has offered potential voters a two-week grace period, during which someone who wants to participate but missed the original deadline can still sign up in person at the office of an election authority, usually the county clerk. HB 267 (now Public Act 96-0441), sponsored by Rep. Will Davis and Sen. James Meeks, extends that grace period one additional week, leaving only seven days between the final deadline and the opening of the polls.
Dan Johnson-Weinberger, who helped write the bill, originally thought it would have broad support. While the measure doesn't solve the systemic problems keeping some people from voting, election officials had no objections. And it certainly improves access for those who want a say in who governs their state and nation. And as Johnson-Weinberger asked in a blog post yesterday, "Who could oppose ending the practice of stopping citizens from voting just on principle?"
Well, the answer is the Republican Party. In the Senate, 22 nay votes (PDF) were recorded. In the House, 45 representatives (PDF) voted it down. Both roll calls were starkly divided along party lines. Weinberger described the rationale of the four Senators who voted against the bill in committee this past April. It's safe to project their justification onto the caucus more broadly:
The four Republican Senators (Dale Righter, Randy Hultgren, David Luechtefeld and Dan Rutherford) were united in opposition to the very concept that the legislature might limit the amount of time that the government denies citizens the ability to register to vote. That would lead on a very dangerous path, they said, to same-day voter registration. Besides, the idea of a herd of voters just showing up to vote that are presumably uneducated in not good government, they said.
Let's remember votes like these when Republicans whine about the need for government reform.