Modernize the Vote

Registering to vote should be modern, accurate and automatic. That’s why Illinois PIRG is working to modernize the vote by starting at the point of entry — registration — and passing policies like online, automatic and Election Day registration.

Every American — Democrat, Republican, or independent — has a fundamental right to have their vote counted. 

But these days, despite using computers, tablets and smartphones for nearly every aspect of our daily lives, nearly half our country is still using pen and paper to register to vote.

Registering to vote should be modern, accurate and automatic. But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on Election Day.

In fact, in the 2012 presidential election, it’s estimated that more than a million eligible voters tried to vote but were turned away because of registration problems. And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate. One in eight voter records on the rolls is either invalid or has serious issues, many due to human errors from processing paper applications.

We can do better. That’s why Illinois PIRG is working to modernize the vote by starting at the point of entry — registration — and passing policies like online, automatic and Election Day registration.

Our ideas are simple. You should be able to register to vote online and check or update it at any time. On Election Day, you should be able to register to vote — or fix any problems with your voting information — at your polling place. Finally, anytime you interact with a government agency, whether that’s getting a license at the DMV or updating your address at the post office, your voter registration info should be updated electronically and automatically.

This fundamental shift could add millions of eligible voters to the rolls, bringing more voices into our elections and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Doing so would also make our elections more secure, and save taxpayers money.

Through our work with Just Democracy Illinois, Illinois PIRG has helped lead efforts in Illinois to realize major components of our voter modernization program: online voter registration and election day registration. The last component is Automatic Voter Registration. In 2016, Illinois PIRG led the coalition effort to pass Automatic Voter Registration legislation, which we did with broad bipartisan majorties in the Illinois House and Senate. Unfortunately, Governor Rauner vetoed the legisaltion, and we fell just a few votes shy of overturning his veto in the legislature. In 2017, we are again working with coalition allies and legislative leaders from both parties to pass Automatic Voter Registration legislation that will win support in the legislature and from Governor Rauner.

Illinois PIRG has a long history of working on the ground to increase voter participation. Through the New Voters and Community Voters Project, we have accumulated a vast wealth of knowledge about what processes work and what barriers exist to getting citizens to the polls — as well as the local relationships we need to organize key stakeholders to advocate for modernization. Getting more people registered to vote, and getting our country further along the path toward universal registration is a key strategy for increasing voter participation.

Now is the time to act. We need to work for and win commonsense reforms to modernize our elections and strengthen our democracy.

Issue updates

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Boosting the Impact of Small Donors

This report examines how the Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic primary could be reshaped by a public financing system that amplifies the voices of small donors in our elections.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Illinois can Build a Better Politics Through Automatic Voter Registration, Campaign Finance Reform

President Obama came to Springfield today because he knows building a better politics starts at the state and local level. Our democracy works best when everyone participates, and Illinois has multiple opportunities this year to empower voters and strengthen our democracy.

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Result | Democracy

Delivering one million petitions to President Obama on dark money

U.S. PIRG joined a broad coalition to deliver one million petitions from Americans, including U.S. PIRG members and supporters, calling on President Obama to shine a light on dark money, or secret political spending.

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Result | Democracy

Giving more Americans a greater voice in our elections

In our democracy, the size of your wallet shouldn’t determine the volume of your voice. In 2015, we helped win reforms in Maine and Seattle to ensure that more Americans have a greater say in our elections. Seattle’s Initiative-122 empowers small donors with “democracy vouchers” that can be donated to local candidates and lowers the cap on contributions. In Maine, the state’s Clean Elections Act was improved by strengthening campaign finance disclosure laws and offering qualifying candidates increased public funding.

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Blog Post | Democracy

California becomes second state to adopt Automatic Voter Registration | Abe Scarr

California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1461 today, making California the second state to adopt Automatic Voter Registration.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Consumer Protection, Democracy

Illinois PIRG Condemns Backdoor, Backroom “Cromnibus” Proposals to gut Wall Street and Campaign Finance Reforms

As Congress considers the “Cromnibus,” Illinois PIRG decried two special interest provisions snuck into the bill and called on the Illinois Congressional Delegation to reject any bill that includes those provisions.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Attorney General Madigan, Good Government & Media Organizations Oppose Measure to Make Illinois Government Less Transparent

A coalition of good government and media organizations joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan Monday in voicing strong opposition to a recently introduced measure in the Illinois General Assembly that would significantly weaken the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The measure, introduced last Tuesday, would expand the ability of a government body to withhold information from the public, and make it harder for citizens to use the legal system when a government body is violating transparency laws.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Playing an Outsized Role in Illinois Elections

In this year’s campaigns, bigger wallets give a small set of mega-donors an outsized voice, according to new information released today by Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Demos.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Statement on today’s Senate vote on the constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United

Today’s vote was an incredible milestone in the fight to reclaim our democracy. The Citizens United decision unleashed a tide of big money from mega-donors and super PACs into our elections, which has threatened to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans. In the 2012 elections, just 32 super PAC donors spent as much as all 3.7 million small donors to Mitt Romney and President Obama combined, and year after year, we’ve seen campaign spending records shattered.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

New campaign launches to get big money out of politics

As the U.S. Senate debates a key measure to reduce the dominance of megadonors and Super PACs in our elections, today Illinois leaders called for the end of big money in politics, and for new policies to increase the impact of small donors.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund and People for the American Way Foundation | Democracy

Outsized Spending, Outsized Influence

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal House races in Illinois, where outside groups spent nearly $24.7 million, were no exception. This fact sheet looks at the source of that money.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Million Dollar Megaphones

A new analysis of data through Election Day from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by U.S. PIRG and Demos shows how big outside spenders drowned out small contributions in 2012: just 61 large donors to Super PACs giving on average $4.7 million each matched the $285.1 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors to the major party presidential candidates.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Auctioning Democracy

Super PACs are tools used by wealthy individuals and institutions to dominate the political process. 93% of the itemized funds raised by Super PACs from individuals came in contributions of at least $10,000, from just twenty-three out of every 10 million people in the U.S. population.

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Blog Post | Democracy

SCOTUS Keeps Floodgates Open | Brian Imus

Today the  Supreme Court passed on the opportunity to revisit its disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision, which is wreaking havoc on democracy and has done so in a way that avoids giving the American public a much deserved explanation.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Why Target Is Still a Target | Brian Imus

Two years ago, the public spoke out against the Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate spending in politics when consumers boycotted Target Corporation for controversial political spending in Minnesota’s state elections. That's why today, at the Target Corporation shareholder meeting in Chicago, shareholders will have an opportunity to vote on a resolution filed by Green Century Funds that calls for an end to the use of shareholder money to influence elections.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Super-Sized Loophole for Super PACs | Brian Imus

If you hate corruption in Illinois – I’ve got some bad news. The Illinois House of Representatives voted in favor of SB 3722, legislation that creates a super-sized loophole in the Illinois contribution limits law established in 2009.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Disempowered Bankers Start Super PAC, Reveal Plans for World Domination | Brian Imus

Members of the American Bankers Association recently announced that after years of being ignored in the halls of power, the industry will at last be creating its own super PAC to serve as its proverbial "big stick."

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