Joint Statement Regarding the Seventh Circuit Action in Challenge to Illinois’ Election Day Registration System

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October 5, 2016

Contact:          Timna Axel
                        Communications Associate
                        Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
                        312.888.4194 | taxel@clccrul.org

Late yesterday, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit stayed a lower court order blocking Election Day voter registration at polling places in Illinois for the November general election. The decision comes in the case of Harlan v. Schotz, in which plaintiffs claimed that election day registration (EDR) as authorized in Illinois is unconstitutional because while it is mandated in all 102 of the state’s counties, the law permits lower population counties to opt out of offering EDR at each polling place. All counties are required to have EDR available at their central election headquarters, often the county seat. The Seventh Circuit’s action means that thousands of voters across Illinois will be able to utilize Election Day registration at polling places, until the court takes further action. In the March 2016 primaries, more than 100,000 eligible persons registered and voted using EDR in Illinois, including Democratic and Republican voters. 

A group of voting rights advocates, including the ACLU of Illinois, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Better Government Association, League of Women Voters of Illinois, and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, filed an amicus brief in August urging the court to reject the effort to eliminate EDR so close to the November general election.

The following can be attributed to Edwin C. Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy, ACLU of Illinois:

“We applaud the Seventh Circuit for recognizing that the rules of the election should not be changed so close to this important election. Thousands of people want to have their voices heard by exercising EDR at their local polling place in the November general election. It is always better for our democracy when more people participate in the electoral process.”

The following can be attributed to Ami Gandhi, Director of Voting Rights and Civic Empowerment at the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights:

“We must protect the rights of all citizens to vote, regardless of political party. It’s time to move forward, not backward, in broadening voter access and modernizing elections.  Any voters with questions about when and where they can register should call our non-partisan voter protection hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE.”