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Online voter registration legislation waiting for Quinn's signature

  • Clerks with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, left, seated, help residents update their registration and/or register to vote at 69 W. Washington St.
Clerks with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, left, seated,… (Jos? M. Osorio / Chicago…)
June 07, 2013|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco

Chicagoans soon may add registering to vote to the ever-growing list of tasks that can be done online.

Legislation that would allow voters to register online awaits Gov. Quinn's signature after the Illinois General Assembly sent it to his desk last week. Illinois would join the list of nearly 20 states have laws that provide the option of online registration with Arizona being the first in 2002.

Currently, eligible voters can fill out their information online but have to get the completed form printed out so they can sign it and mail it to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The online voter registration legislation calls for the state board of elections to accept digitized signatures from Illinois driver's licenses or state ID cards to verify the applicant and forward the data to the local election authority to finish the paperless registration process. Registered voters would be able to update their information online as well.

"It's going to address a generational shift for people used to conducting their lives from a laptop or smart phone," said Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The process would be more convenient and accessible for eligible voters and cost-effective, simpler and more accurate for election officials, he said.

Online voter registration will have "huge" impact on young voters getting involved in the political process, said Rebecca Reynolds, executive director of Chicago Votes, a nonpartisan organization that encourages young adults to register and vote.

For example, in less than five weeks after California offered online voter registration in September 2012, more than 800,000 people signed up using the new system, according to a University of California at Berkeley report.

"This now provides a direct route to civic participation and engagement in a way young people are discussing, sharing, liking and engaging with their peers," Reynolds said. "We get music online. We buy our books online. Now, we can engage and register in our democracy online."

The system should be operational by July 2014, according to the bill.

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