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Monday, August 14, 2017

Illinois Election Day Voter Registration Upheld

On August 4th, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a preliminary injunction that had been previously granted regarding the same-day voter registration law, finding no evidence that allowing same-day voter registration in large Illinois counties discriminates against voters in small counties. Harlan v. Scholz (7th Cir. 2017)
Harlan, a Republican candidate for Illinois congress, sued the Illinois State Board of Elections in 2016, claiming the state law guaranteeing same day registration for high population counties violated due process by disproportionately benefiting Democrats. The law provided that counties with a population of over 100,000 must allow citizens to register when voting, while smaller counties can decide whether to provide the service. According to the case, there are only 20 Illinois counties that provide same day registration, but these 20 counties account for about 84% of Illinois’ total population.

Harlan argued that the law was unconstitutional because it gave larger counties more options of implementing registration and voting, and that these counties tended to have a disproportionate number of Democrat voters. The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled in Harlan's favor, partly based on Harlan's expert witness testimony about urban voters. 

In reversing the District Court, the Seventh Circuit found that Harlan failed to show that "Election-Day registration in Illinois’ 20 more heavily populated counties is more likely to increase voter participation than centralized Election-Day registration in the smaller counties..." The Seventh Circuit also held that the law “does not force quite as many options on the smaller counties as it does on the 20 largest counties, it permits every county to adopt the default same-day rules, and it provides realistic same-day options even in the smaller places. This, coupled with the lack of any data about which groups are disadvantaged and how, dooms the injunction.”

Post Authored by Jack Takiguchi & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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