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 But our outdated and often inaccurate system works against that idea, and can leave eligible voters to deal with registration problems when they go to cast their vote on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 And making matters worse, these outdated systems are generally more expensive and less accurate.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

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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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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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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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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Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG analyzed the campaign finance reports from 2020 candidates. We found that small donations, and the people who provide them, have a significant voice in the presidential race.

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.

Democracy

A somber anniversary: 10 years after the Citizens United decision

January 15th marked the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, widely blamed for opening the floodgates to special interest spending in our elections. U.S. legislators joined PIRG and other pro-democracy organizations to decry the ongoing harm caused by the ruling—and to highlight the growth of the pro-reform movement. 

 

Democracy | U.S. PIRG

Small donors are driving the 2020 presidential race

For years, it has been impossible to run for office without relying heavily on large dollar donations. While big money still has disproportionate influence, a combination of technological and cultural changes have made it possible for candidates for president to run for office while relying primarily on small-donor money.

 
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