CHICAGO - Governor Rod Blagojevich today signed legislation allowing prospective voters to register 14 days before an election, instead of the previous 28 days before an election. By creating the two-week "grace period," Senate Bill 2133 allows voters more time to register or change their address and still have the chance to vote in the next election.
"I believe people should get every opportunity to participate in the democratic process," said Gov. Blagojevich. "In today’s world, people are working hard and taking care of their families. This law gives busy people extra time to register and or update their information. This is a good law for the hard working people of this state and for our democracy."
Senate Bill 2133, sponsored by Sen. James T. Meeks (I-Chicago) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D- Matteson), allows individuals who wish to register to vote or change their address during the grace period to do so in person, at their local election authority or at a specially designated site.
"I'm delighted the governor is signing the bill today," said Rep. Kelly. "This is good, progressive legislation that has worked well in other states to increase voter participation, especially among younger residents."
"As American citizens, it is our responsibility at election time to choose our leaders by participating in the political process," said Sen. Meeks. "This is the right that generations before us have fought and died for. This is the right that sent women and African Americans into the streets in protest to demand the ability to cast a ballot for the person of their choice. Anything we can do to make the voting process more accessible is a step in the right direction and providing an additional two-weeks will give voters more time to vote in the next election."
Under the new law, voters who register or change their address during the grace period and want to vote in an upcoming election will be able to vote by mail or in person, at a site chosen by their local election authority. To identify possible irregularities in grace period votes, grace period votes will be kept separate from precinct votes and will be counted at election headquarters.
The legislation brings Illinois’ registration time period in to line with many other states. Six states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, allow same day registration, and several others allow registration up to 15 days before an election. The new law is based on the state of Washington's grace period, which has a 28-day deadline for 'regular' registration and a 14-day deadline for 'late' registration.
In 2004, under then-current Illinois law, to be eligible to vote in the November election registration was required by October 5th, the day of the vice-presidential debate and three days before the second of three presidential debates. With the new regulations, the registration deadline would have fallen on October 19th, well after the debates, allowing a grace period for would-be voters and potentially increasing voter turnout statewide.
SB 2133 becomes effective July 1st, 2005.