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While some states move to secure voting, Illinois looks to expand access

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(The Center Square) – As states around the country limit access to voting to prevent fraud, Illinois is going in the opposite direction.

During an Illinois House Ethics and Election Committee hearing, numerous proposals were discussed to make it easier for Illinoisans to vote. One measure being discussed, House Bill 4198, would allow an election authority to mail a vote by mail ballot to all qualified voters instead of sending notices and applications for permanent vote by mail status.

Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons testified that Illinois is becoming one of the easiest states in the country to vote for several reasons, including allowing convicted felons the right to vote.

“And recently, the allowance of drop boxes, permanent vote-by-mail lists and vote centers, and hopefully, the adoption of HB4198 will put Illinois in the top tier of states that provide the best voter access,” said Ammons.

Ammons’ office has come under fire in recent years for election issues, including a lawsuit over the mishandling of ballots in 2022, and a reprimand from the Illinois State Board of Elections for counting ballots early in 2020.

A new law allows 16-year-olds in Illinois to pre-register to vote. The law went into effect Jan. 1. Currently, 17-year-olds are already able to register and vote in a primary election as long as they’re 18 the day of the general election.

Charles Holiday, executive director of the Chicago Elections Commission, says they expect 250,000 for the March 19 primary.

“And over 300,000 will choose to vote by mail in the upcoming Nov. 5th election,” said Holiday. “We believe that extending vote by mail does not just improve voter access in Illinois but it improves voter turnout overall.”

Research released last July from a nonprofit conservative watchdog found that Illinois had nearly 800,000 inactive registered voters on the state’s voter rolls. Judicial Watch reported to the federal Election Assistance Commission that showed 14% of Illinois’ counties have more registered voters than citizens over 18.

Other states have tightened up the election process. A Cleveland federal judge ruled Monday that a bevy of election restrictions that Ohio Republican lawmakers put into place last year, including new photo-identification requirements and eliminating in-person early voting the day before Election Day, are constitutional. In Georgia, meanwhile, the state legislature passed a bill allowing it to appoint a board that can replace election officials.

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