Federal judge blocks Illinois’ same-day voter registration program

Republicans have been granted an injunction blocking the state’s same-day registration program.

An election worker hands a voting receipt to a voter at a polling station in Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 27, 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
An election worker hands a voting receipt to a voter at a polling station in Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 27, 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

On National Voter Registration Day, a U.S. District Court in Illinois granted a motion blocking the state’s same-day voter registration program.

The program has been offered by counties with populations greater than 100,000. Shortly after a pilot version of the program proved to be a success during the 2014 election, a bill making it a permanent feature of the state’s election law was signed by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn (D). More than 110,000 voters registered on election day last March.

But, as ThinkProgress has previously reported, members of the Illinois Republican Party sued a couple months ago to block the program. They argue it gives unfair advantage to Democratic candidates who generally do well in high-population counties.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Teghiayan granted the Republicans’ motion for a preliminary injunction shutting down the program for now.


“The application of this legislation favors the urban citizen and dilutes the vote of the rural citizen,” Der-Teghiayan writes. “The Supreme Court has made it clear that legislation cannot ‘restrict the political participation of some in order to enhance the relative influence of others.’”

In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, Common Cause Illinois’ Lead Organizer Trevor Gervais expressed disappointment about today’s ruling.

“To suspend Election Day Registration and suppress the vote less than two weeks before the voter registration deadline will hurt communities across Illinois who were counting on being able to register and vote on November 8,” he said. “The court’s decision to side with a conservative group with ties to ALEC and the Koch brothers, combined with Governor Rauner’s recent veto of Automatic Voter Registration, signals a step backwards for voting rights in Illinois and continues a nationwide trend of coordinated and well-funded voter suppression efforts.”

Gervais told ThinkProgress he expects Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) to appeal the decision. He said he expects the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the injunction in time to restore the program ahead of election day on November 8.

But if the injunction isn’t overturned, the last day Illinois voters will be able to register online is October 23 (mail-in registrations have to be submitted by October 11). Gervais estimates that would disenfranchise at least as many voters as the more than 110,000 who registered on election day in March.