PRINCETON — The state of Illinois has become the 18th state in the country to approve online voter registration, but the issue is bigger than just getting more people registered to vote, said to Bureau County Clerk Kami Hieronymus.
On Saturday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation revising the Illinois Election Code to give residents the ability to register to vote online. The new registration system is to be in place by July 2014.
In making his announcement, Quinn said democracy works best when as many voters as possible raise their voices at the ballot box.
“Online voter registration will encourage more people to fulfill their civic duty by making that first step of registering to vote easier and more accessible,” Quinn said. “This new law will boost registration rates, cut costs and move Illinois’ democratic process into the 21st century.”
On Monday, Hieronymus said the concept behind the new legislation is good, to make it more convenient for people to get registered to vote.
“But that’s not really the problem or the bigger issue,” Hieronymus said. “Somehow the focus needs to be more on voter turnout, getting people to actually vote once they are registered. That’s where the issue is.”
As reported earlier in the Bureau County Republican, Hieronymus said there are already several registration options available for people, including county clerks’ offices, driver’s license facilities, and some high schools. Though opportunities for voter registration may be a problem for people living in cities, she doesn’t see that as a problem in rural areas, she said.
Again, the problem isn’t so much getting people registered to vote, but getting them to the polls once they are registered, Hieronymus said. To tackle that problem, some states have a system in which all ballots are mailed out to registered voters, but she sees some potential concerns with that system, including postage costs and possible voter fraud and influence.
In Bureau County’s most recent election on April 9, the average voter turnout for the county was at 35.32 percent, which means 8,449 of the county’s 23,919 registered voters went to the polls.
According to Saturday’s announcement by Quinn, the new online voter registration legislation is part of House Bill 2418, which also includes other provisions such as requiring the Illinois State Board of Elections to post precinct-by-precinct totals for all of the state’s precincts, and changing the code so that votes cast for a candidate who drops out before Election Day but remains on the ballot will not be counted.
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