Illinois Student Senate pushes for same-day voter registration

By Elyssa Kaufman

Many students may struggle to find the time to take a bus to register to vote on top of their classes, homework and extracurricular activities.  

Any students who missed the Oct. 7 deadline to register to vote but wants to vote in the upcoming midterm elections must take a bus ride to the closest registration location at the Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana. The Illinois Student Senate is pushing for a same-day voter registration location to be added to the Illini Union on Tuesday, so that students who missed the deadline still have the opportunity to cast a ballot.

“There are a lot of students who want to vote but don’t want to go through the hassle of running out to the Brookens Administrative Center and therefore do not vote,” said Student Body President Mitch Dickey.  

A new law effective only for the upcoming midterm elections allows Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten to decide whether to have same-day voter registration. 

Dickey sent a letter to the Champaign County Clerk on Oct. 10 pushing for same-day voter registration at the Illini Union on Election Day. 

Hulten said the Champaign County Clerk’s office supports same-day voter registration, but said it is unlikely that they will be able to provide all equipment needed, such as printers, to register voters within a few days of the election.

“(The law) appears to give election authorities some discretion as to the location where Election Day registration can be conducted. It is not clear that we have discretion as to the schedule,” Hulten said. “The issue is, I’m not sure if we have the legal authority to do this in one location, for one day only.”

Dickey said he disagreed with Hulten’s reasoning behind not allowing same-day registration at the Union. 

“I think it’s the Champaign County Clerk putting up a barrier himself, and that’s just the argument he is going to hide behind to not give us same-day voter registration,” Dickey said. “I see it as him saying that he would rather not give students the fullest opportunity to vote, and I would rather caution on the side of an interpretation of the law.” 

Matt Hill, vice president external of ISS, believes having a same-day voter registration location at the Union would increase the student vote in the elections. 

“Same-day voter registration would make registration and voting very accessible,” Hill said.

Hill believes the registration is legal, based on the Illinois State Board of Elections. He also said the Union is the universal location for early voting in the county and would be a convenient place for students to register. 

Dickey said he will continue to speak to the Champaign County Clerk and push for same-day voter registration for next year as well. 

“I am really still hoping we will get same-day voting registration, and there is no indication from our County Clerk that it is going to happen, which is very unfortunate,” Dickey said. “Hopefully in the future we will be able to get grace period registration and have these conversations way in advance, so there is no excuse about whether it is legal.”

Elyssa can be reached at [email protected]