Friday was the anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. We still have work to do to enforce the principles Illinois’ favorite son supported: Civil rights and equality under the law.
Two of the biggest civil rights issues of our time are voting rights and ballot access.
In Illinois, there are more than one million eligible voters not on the rolls. Many more face challenges exercising the right to vote because they can’t afford to take off work to spend hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles or can’t afford a car and don’t have a state-issued ID.
Too many people of color are affected by these barriers. Illinois is below the national average in voter registration numbers; it’s even worse when you only look at communities of color.
Illinois has taken steps to improve democracy, including enacting online voter registration and laws expanding early voting and allowing citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election Day, called same day registration (SDR). After SDR enactment, Illinois was among the top four states increasing voter turnout between 2012 and 2016 – up 4 percent.
Automatic voter registration (AVR) builds upon recent improvements and brings elections into the 21st century by updating voter registration cards whenever they interact with a state agency after a move.
AVR has bipartisan support. Automatic voter registration expands civic participation and safeguards against voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
We must take heed of Lincoln’s legacy and recommit ourselves to the principles of justice, fairness, and equality for all.
Ra Joy and Andy Kang
Editor’s note: Joy and Kang are co-chairs of Just Democracy Coalition