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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Strengthen Democracy

Press Release - Saturday, January 10, 2015

CHICAGO - Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to expand democracy in Illinois and bring it into the 21st century. The new laws make same-day voter registration permanent, expand early voting and set a special election on Nov. 8, 2016 to allow voters to fill the statewide position of Illinois Comptroller. Today's actions are part of Governor Quinn's agenda to increase participation in our democracy and ensure that every voice is heard in Illinois.

"Our democracy works best when everyone has an opportunity to participate," Governor Quinn said "These new laws modernize our election process, make same-day voting permanent and help ensure that the people have the power to choose our statewide officials."

Sponsored by State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 172 extends grace period registration through Election Day, allowing voters to register on the day of the election, and expands the number of early voting days and locations. The law will increase opportunities to vote for individuals whose work schedules prevented them from taking advantage of previous voting hours. The law also expands registration and voting opportunities for college students, requiring state universities to offer same-day registration and early voting.

Same-day registration and voting were first implemented as a pilot program during the 2014 General Election and are being made permanent by the new law, which goes into effect June 1, 2015.

The Governor today signed House Bill 4576, sponsored by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), to allow voters the opportunity to fill statewide positions of Illinois government in the case of a vacancy. The law is the result of the sudden passing of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka this past December. A special election will give voters the opportunity to choose their Comptroller in the next statewide election on Nov. 8, 2016. The law excludes the statewide offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor and takes effect immediately.

Governor Quinn has long been a champion of expanding voting rights and opportunities. In 2013, Governor Quinn increased access to democracy across Illinois by giving 17-year-olds the ability to vote in primary elections if they are 18 years old by the general election date. Governor Quinn advocated for and signed legislation allowing Illinois residents to register to vote online, a policy originally proposed in the Governor's 2013 State of the State Address. In 2011, Governor Quinn signed the state's first voting rights act. The Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011 protects the voting rights of racial and language minority communities throughout Illinois and encourages public participation in the redistricting process.

Throughout his life, the Governor has worked to harness the power of everyday people to create change. In 1976 he led the largest petition drive in state history, ending the century-old practice of allowing Illinois legislators to collect their entire salary on their first day in office. In 1980, he organized the Cutback Amendment to reduce the size of the Illinois General Assembly — the first and only Illinois constitutional amendment ever adopted by citizen initiative. He helped launch the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) in 1984 to protect citizens from unfair utility rates, saving more than $10 billion dollars for everyday people.

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