SPRINGFIELD | State lawmakers last week approved legislation giving Illinoisans the ability to register to vote online.
But, in the hubbub of the annual end-of-session rush to adjourn for the summer, members of the House and Senate left town without allocating any money to pay for the proposal.
“It’s something that we’re going to have to figure out,” said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections. “We’ll have to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Under legislation now awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature, the state would establish a system for applicants to register to vote through the state Board of Elections website, using a driver's license and the last four digits of a Social Security number.
The information would be shared and confirmed by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office so that a person’s signature can be transmitted to their home county.
Early estimates put the cost at about $1.5 million, with the bulk of that coming out of the board of elections budget. The secretary of state’s office estimates the program will have a start-up cost of about $50,000.
Borgsmiller said his staff would first review what they can do without any money in an attempt to get the program up and running by a July 1, 2014, deadline.
“We want to do this,” Borgsmiller said. “But we’ll just have to do what we can.”
Although there is no upfront cash for now, proponents say online registration is cheaper to manage in the long run. Cook County Clerk David Orr said other states have seen the cost of processing an application drop from 83 cents per registration to 3 cents because there are fewer employees involved.
Gov. Pat Quinn backs the proposal.
“We supported it and intend to sign it,” Quinn spokesman Dave Blanchette said.
Once approved, Illinois will join 18 other states that have a registration program in place or are in the process of implementing it.
“It’s going to be challenging. But I like challenges,” Borgsmiller said.
The legislation is House Bill 2418.