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 But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on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 And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate.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

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 Education Fund | Democracy

In Aldermanic Races Fueled by Big Money, Top Fundraiser Wins 93% of the Time

In the Chicago aldermanic races the candidate with the most money almost always wins, small donors represent only a small portion of candidates’ campaign cash, and small donor campaign finance reform would shake up elections according to a new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund. The report analyzes campaign contributions going to top candidates in all 50 wards in the 2015 aldermanic elections.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

The Money Primary

The role of money in elections is typically discussed in the context of high profile races such as those for Congress, Governor, or big city Mayors. The influence of money in smaller races, however, is just as big if not bigger.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Chicago Voters Want to Curb Influence of Big Money, Empower Small Donors

While some races- including the mayoral - are headed for runoffs, Chicago voters spoke loud and clear on one issue: it’s time to get big money out of our elections.

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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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Media Hit | Democracy

Guest Column: Same-day voter registration could help curb political corruption rate

Same Day Registration (SDR) would let all citizens in Illinois register and vote at any Early Voting and Election Day polling location. Four of the five states with the highest voter turnout in 2012 offered SDR. The average voter turnout rate was more than 10 percent higher in states with SDR than in other states.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

TODAY SUPREME COURT RULED FOR ANOTHER FLOOD OF BIG MONEY

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. U.S. PIRG research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

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