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 But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on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 And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate.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

Illinois Senate Takes Bipartisan Step to Lessen Influence of Big Money in Elections

The Illinois Senate voted 31-23 in a bipartisan vote to lessen the influence of big money in Illinois elections by passing Senate Bill 1424. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Biss and championed by good government groups Fair Elections Illinois, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and Illinois Public Interest Research Group, would create a small donor matching system, wherein candidates would be eligible to receive public matching funds for small contributions by voluntarily agreeing to forgo big money and corporate contributions. A similar system has existed in New York City for decades and has been adopted by other jurisdictions in recent years.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Legislation will Raise the Voices of Ordinary Citizens in our Democracy

I applaud Senator Biss for introducing critical legislation to raise the voices of ordinary citizens in our democracy.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Call your representative and senators every day. Here's how. | Andre Delattre

There’s a lot unfolding in Washington, D.C., right now, and you may be wondering: “What can I do to voice my concerns?”

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Blog Post | Democracy

The growing bipartisan support for political reform in Illinois | Abe Scarr

While I am disappointed that Illinois voters won’t get the chance to weigh in this fall on the way legislative maps are drawn, I am optimistic about the growing bipartisan support building for political reform in Illinois.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

Just Democracy Illinois Reaction to Governor Rauner Veto of Automatic Voter Registration

We are deeply disappointed by Governor Rauner's decision to veto bipartisan automatic voter registration legislation.

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Pages

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

New Report: County clerks’ take on Automatic Voter Registration

County clerks from across the state think automatic voter registration could mean more efficiency without adding to the budget.

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News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Small donor program could reshape campaign fundraising in Cook County State's Attorney race, new report shows

Candidates in the 2016 Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic primary race would see a dramatic shift in fundraising focus under a proposed small donor matching program, according to a study released today by Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

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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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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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Report | Illinois PIRG | Democracy

The Money Chase

Five years after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, what are the roles of large donors and average voters in selecting and supporting candidates for Congress? This report examines the role of money in the 2014 congressional elections from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives, and demonstrates how matching small political contributions with limited public funds can change the campaign landscape for grassroots candidates.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide

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Report | U.S. PIRG, Demos | Democracy

"MCCUTCHEON" COULD ADD OVER $1 BILLION IN CONTRIBUTIONS TO NEXT FOUR ELECTIONS

We project that striking the aggregate limit would bring more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

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Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund & Demos | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. This is Demos' and Illinois PIRG Education Fund's analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission to find our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers.

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Pages

Blog Post | Democracy

Automatic Voter Registration Passes Illinois Senate | Abe Scarr

Today, the Illinois State Senate passed Illinois PIRG-supported Automatic Voter Registration legislation with bi-partisan support.

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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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Blog Post | Democracy

Student Government Leaders Support Voting Reform Bill | Abe Scarr

The Illinois Legislature is close to passing a sweeping election reform bill that, among other positive reforms, would make Election Day Registration permanent, and provide early voting on all state University campuses. Illinois student leaders have rallied to suppor the bill.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Election Day Registration Passes Illinois House | Abe Scarr

Legislation to make Election Day Registration permanent - backed by Illinois PIRG and our coalition, Just Vote - passed through the Illinois House today. The Senate has until tomorrow to pass the bill before the fall session ends.

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Blog Post | Democracy

The "Level" Playing Field | Abe Scarr

The fact that allowing megadonors to contribute without limit is considered 'leveling the playing field,' creating a playing field on which the vast majority of Chicago voters can't play any meaningful role, is a sad statement of how big money has been allowed to dominate our elections

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Blog Post

 

Chicago's mayoral candidates ran to represent all of the city's 2.7 million people. It would be good if their donors represented at least a cross-section of the people, too. But they didn't.

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Analysis of Mayoral campaign finance reports through one week before Election Day shows that less than 1 percent of money raised has come from donors giving less than $150, while 97 percent has come from donors giving $1,000 or more. 

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund

As we approach ten years since Citizens United v. FEC, the growing dominance of a small group of big donors in Illinois elections is undeniable. From City Council to Governor, political campaigns are increasingly fueled by a small number of donors who make contributions far larger than average voters can afford. Increasingly, to run a competitive race, a candidate cannot rely primarily on small donors, but instead needs to draw on the small number of large donors who can afford to make big contributions, from their personal wealth, or from the war chests of established political players. As the presence of big money in politics grows, the voices of small donors are increasingly stifled.

Blog Post

At a time when it seems like Springfield can't agree on anything, automatic voter registration has won bipartisan support.

News Release

Read Illinois PIRG's statement on the President's establishment of an "Advisory Commission on Election Integrity."

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