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 But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on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 And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate.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

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 | Democracy

Sen. Durbin Offers Bill to Fight Big Money in Elections by Amplifying Voices of Small Donors

With 2016 candidates already raising record amounts from large donors for their campaigns, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin introduced legislation today that would empower small donors in our elections. The Fair Elections Now Act would enable more Americans to participate in the electoral process by establishing a $25 “my voice” refundable tax credit. Small contributions of less than $150 would then be matched with limited public funds at a rate of six-to-one for Senate candidates that agree to turn down big money, amplifying the voices of small donors.  

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Mayoral Election Dominated by Big, Out of Town Money

Thicker wallets gave big donors an outsized voice in this year’s mayoral election, according to new analysis of campaign finance data by Illinois PIRG Education Fund. Contributions greater than $1,000 accounted for 92% of the money contributed to the Emanuel and Garcia Campaigns, while under 2% of the money contributed came from contributions of less than $150. A clear majority -- 58% -- of money contributed, came from donors living outside Chicago.

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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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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Advocates to Illinois General Assembly: Don't Override Governor's Veto of Bad FOIA Bill

Good government advocates are calling on the Illinois General Assembly to not override Governor Pat Quinn’s veto of HB 3796, a recently passed bill that damages the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by constructing legal impediments designed to greatly limit the public’s access to local government records—information the people are entitled to review and which is paid for with tax dollars.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Just Democracy Campaign Commends IL Legislature on Good First Step for Election Reform

The Just Democracy campaign congratulates the Illinois Legislature for passing HB105 last Friday evening. The legislation will make it easier for Illinoisans to vote by allowing eligible Illinoisans to register or update their voter registration and then vote on Election Day.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Public Health, Democracy

Kraft Foods Faces Pressure to Keep Money Out of Politics

During its annual meeting of shareholders today, Kraft Foods Group, Inc. will face a resolution filed by the Green Century Equity Fund urging the company to refrain from using corporate funds to influence any political election campaign. Kraft Foods spent millions to oppose legislation for labeling food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) last year, which shareholders argue exposed the company to significant brand and reputational risks without generating value for shareholders.

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