Earlier today, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan granted a motion to block Election Day voter registration at polling places in Illinois for the November general election. The decision comes in the case of Harlan v. Schotz, in which plaintiffs claimed that election day registration (EDR) as authorized in Illinois is unconstitutional because while it is mandated in all 102 of the state’s counties, only larger population counties are required to have EDR available at each polling place. All counties are required to have EDR available at their central election headquarters, often the county seat. The court’s order today undermines the wide availability of Election Day registration at polling places.
A group of voting rights advocates, including the ACLU of Illinois, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Better Government Association, League of Women Voters of Illinois, and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, filed an amicus brief in August urging Judge Der-Yeghiayan to reject the effort to eliminate EDR so close to the November general election. EDR has been in place in Illinois since the 2014 general election. In the March 2016 primaries, more than 100,000 eligible persons registered and voted using EDR, including Democratic and Republican voters.
The following can be attributed to Edwin C. Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy, ACLU of Illinois:
“We are concerned about the impact of this decision, changing the rules of voting so close to this hotly-contested election. We must continue to use every available method to ensure that every eligible voter in our state can access the ballot – not create obstacles to the franchise. We encourage the State of Illinois and the Cook County Clerk – parties in this matter – to explore all legal options to protect voters’ rights. Thousands of people who are depending on EDR could lose the ability to vote if this ruling stands for the November general election.”
The following can be attributed to Ami Gandhi, Director of Voting Rights and Civic Empowerment, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“We are extremely disappointed in this decision, on National Voter Registration Day, to restrict ballot access across the state. We want to be clear: scaling back Election Day Registration threatens to silence thousands of eligible voters in Illinois. We urge the Illinois State Board of Elections and the Cook County Clerk’s office, who are parties in the action, as well as all election authorities across the state to pursue all options to promote voter access and minimize confusion for voters this close to Election Day.”