Local Editorials

Our View: Extend Election Day registration

Should voters in Iroquois County have the same voting opportunity as those in Cook County or McHenry County?

We would say yes, and most other Illinoisans probably would, too. Yet a law that makes voting easier for many Illinoisans leaves out voters in the state’s less-populous counties.

In Illinois, a law that was tested in 2014 and became permanent before the March primary requires that voters in counties with more than 100,000 people be able to register at their polling place and vote on the day of the election. The rule applies to 20 Illinois counties, with McHenry County among them. Voters in smaller counties are not locked out if they haven’t registered by Election Day, but they do have to go to the county clerk’s office to register and vote on election day.

This approach has prompted a lawsuit from the Liberty Justice Center, the legal arm of the Illinois Policy Institute. The group argues the same-day registration plan should be scrapped because it does not apply equally to all of Illinois’ 102 counties.

Putting aside the political bent of this lawsuit, which has suppression of voter turnout in Chicago and other Democratic Party strongholds as its unstated goal, we are inclined to agree: Voters across Illinois should have same-day registration available to them at their polling places.

Same-day registration and voting has increased voter turnout. In fall 2014, in a pilot election for the law, thousands took advantage, and the March primaries saw record turnout in many counties.

Give us a system in which people who have not registered to vote but want their voice heard can go to their local polling place, register and cast a ballot on the spot. If the system can be managed by clerks and poll workers in larger jurisdictions, it should be manageable for those in the state’s more rural counties as well.

The right of citizens to vote is critical, and the opportunity to cast a ballot should be as readily available to all eligible voters as possible.

Extending Election Day registration and voting to all of the state’s polling places would be a good way to do that.

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