SPRINGFIELD (AP) — These days, people bank online. They shop online. They even file taxes online. So why can't Illinoisans register to vote online, as voters do in other states?
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants to modernize state election law by allowing would-be voters to skip visits to the courthouse or village hall by registering on their home computers.
"We must move our election process into the 21st century," Quinn told legislators last week in his State of the State address.
Supporters say the measure could benefit two million people in Illinois who are qualified but have not registered. They say the option could be particularly attractive to 18- to 24-year-olds, more accustomed to using the web. And other states have adopted it and put in place systems to address concerns about voter fraud.
Proposals to lessen the burden of voting have at times been viewed skeptically by Republicans as efforts to benefit low-income and minority voters who mark Democratic ballots. But many states that allow online registration are Republican leaning, and Illinois' GOP leadership doesn't object to the governor's proposal — though questioning whether it should be a legislative priority at a time when the state has its plate full with so many serious financial challenges.
"The more people voting, the better for us," Pat Brady, Illinois state GOP chairman, told The Associated Press. "But to spend three breaths or a nickel ... to work on this is just nothing but a waste of time."
Democrats and Republicans have repeatedly said legislators must focus all their efforts on fixing Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension crisis. The state is about $96 billion behind in pension contributions and owes billions in backlogged bills.
Quinn, who is up for re-election next year, hasn't actively been exploring the online voting issue. His office hasn't proposed any details for how an online system would work.