SPRINGFIELD | Add registering to vote to the list of tasks Illinoisans can now do on their computers or smart phones.
As part of a new law approved last year, Illinois this week became the 20th state to offer online voter registration as a way to get more people involved in the democratic process.
The initiative was highlighted by Gov. Pat Quinn in his 2013 State of the State speech and later approved by the Legislature, despite concerns by Republican lawmakers that the system could lead to fraud.
The November election will be the first time in which voters who've signed up online can cast ballots.
“Our democracy is strongest when as many people as possible get involved and participate,” said state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who sponsored the law. “People can do everything else online – shop, pay bills, book flights and hotel rooms – they expect to be able to register to vote too.”
When voters visit the site -- https://ova.elections.il.gov/ -- they'll need an Illinois driver's license or state-issued identification card, the last four digits of their social security number and their current address.
After following the steps, the information is transmitted to the Illinois Secretary of State's office, which then transmits the signature from the driver's license back to election officials. The signature already on record with the state becomes the signature used to identify voters at the polling place.
Jackson County Clerk Larry Reinhardt said the new system could be a "big step forward." But, he said questions remain about how it will work in his county -- home to thousands of students attending Southern Illinois University.
"We're going to have to play it by ear," Reinhardt said.
Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean said the change could boost turnout.
"I think its a positive thing," Bean said Wednesday. "I think its going to work very well."
Although the deadline for Illinois to begin offering the online option doesn't hit until July 1, state election regulators are in the midst of a soft rollout of the new system.
While Illinoisans can start using the system immediately, state Board of Elections executive director Rupert Borgsmiller said officials are hoping to catch any problems before they begin promoting the site.
"We're very confident that whatever glitches there are, we'll get them resolved," Borgsmiller said.