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Illinois to allow online voter registration

CHICAGO – In a step supporters hope will propel more young people to the polls, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Saturday to make Illinois the 18th state to allow online voter registration.

The system, which must be in place by July of next year, is aimed at increasing the number of people taking the first step to voting while cutting the administrative costs of processing registrations on paper.

Backers are confident the system will be secure and will not lead to an increase in voter fraud.

“I can shop, watch movies, sign legal documents [and] even open my garage door online. There’s no good reason I should have to wait in line at a government office that’s only open during work hours to register to vote,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, Don Harmon, said in arguing for its passage.

The Oak Park Democrat hopes the system will be popular with young people more inclined to use their laptops and smart phones to get things done.

The law gives election authorities until July 1 of next year to have the system up in running, meaning people will be able to use it in time to vote in the next general election in November 2014.

Applicants will have to use a driver’s license and the last four digits of their Social Security number to register.

Quinn endorsed the idea in his state of the state address this year.

“Democracy works best when as many voters as possible raise their voices at the ballot box,” the governor said Saturday.

Quinn said it was also important to keep the state’s electoral system in step with 21st century technology.

His office said in a statement that the 17 states already allowing online registration have seen higher numbers of people signing up to vote, especially young people.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said he was confident it would be secure.

He called it the biggest step in expanding the electorate since the 1993 federal law allowing people to register to vote at state driver’s license facilities.

Harmon said it will save the state money. Processing a paper registration costs 83 cents, compared with 3 cents for an online application, he said.

Earlier this month, Quinn signed legislation allowing 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the time of the general election to participate in that cycle’s primary election.

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