More than a million people have Illinois drivers' licenses but aren't registered to vote. They would be registered automatically under a measure before the General Assembly.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss from Evanston says he thinks it is his responsibility as a public official to make the election process as open as possible.

"I think that we have a challenge in our society right now where participation in democracy feels first of all difficult and second of all, unfortunately sometimes pointless," Biss said.


  Illinois lawmakers are looking to keep schools available as polling places on election day. It comes as some election authorities move to what critics say are less accessible locations.

Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to add protections for voting rights to the Illinois Constitution.

The measure is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan himself.

In explaining why he thinks it's necessary, he recalled the federal Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to "modify" parts of that law.

"That modification by the Supreme Court has apparently brought on efforts in other states to enact legislation that some of us would consider to be voter suppression," Madigan says, pointing to voter ID laws.

  As other states enact stricter voting restrictions, Illinois lawmakers are looking to protect against suppression. A House committee Tuesday advanced the constitutional change.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was hard pressed when asked to give an example of a case in Illinois when an eligible voter was denied access to register or to take a ballot.

"I'm not in the position to cite examples ..."

But Madigan says it has happened in states that have attempted to enact voter ID laws that discriminate against minorities, or that cut early voting periods short.


State election regulators say more than a dozen Illinois counties have purged their voter registration rolls to remove the names of people who've died or moved away.  

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers reports ( ) 17 counties and the city of East St. Louis fixed problems on their lists of registered voters.  
County clerks are required to purge voter rolls every two years. But some counties say there isn't enough money in the budget to cover the sometimes costly review.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Before last November, most Americans saw voting as a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated act of civic duty. Folks went to the polls and punched their ballots, then tuned in to the evening news or read the morning paper to find out who won, all without giving much thought to what happened in between.