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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Same-Day Illinois Voter Registration Reinstated

CHICAGO (CN) — Same-day voter registration is back on in Illinois after the Seventh Circuit stayed an order barring voters from being able to register at the polls in November.

The Chicago-based appeals court also declined to expedite hearings in an appeal of the preliminary injunction granted by a federal judge last month.

The Republican Central Committee of Crawford County in downstate Illinois and western Illinois Congressional candidate Patrick Harlan sued in August, claiming a state law guaranteeing same-day registration for high-population counties only benefits urban Democrats.

Illinois requires counties with a population of over 100,000 to allow citizens to register when voting, but the rest don't have to. None of them do because of cost and logistics, leaving only 20 counties out of 102 with same-day registration.

Harlan's complaint says the law discriminates against the Republican Party and violates the 14th Amendment, since high-population counties tend to vote for Democrats. The Liberty Justice Center, representing the plaintiffs, claims that was no accident.

"If Illinois wants to provide Election Day voter registration at the polls, it can do so in a way that's fair and equal," Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan granted a preliminary injunction Sept. 27, finding that allowing the current scheme to remain in place for the November election would cause irreparable harm to voters in low-population Illinois counties. It was appealed the same day.

The plaintiffs argued that the preliminary injunction only applied to the upcoming election in the first place, and issuing a stay would "amount to a reversal of the district court's order, even though the parties did not have an opportunity to fully brief and argue the issues."

"It affects the fundamental constitutional right to vote," according to their motion to expedite the proceedings.

But intervenor Cook County Clerk David Orr said in his opposition statement that "this case will not become moot if it is not decided until after Election Day."

Expediting the case "would have the effect of hurried briefs, hasty argument and reduced deliberation time, none of which are conducive to a thoughtful, considered and correct outcome in this important case," Orr added.

The Seventh Circuit sided with Orr and the Illinois State Board of Elections last week when it decided to stay Der-Yeghiayan's Sept. 27 order pending appeal.

The appeals court also denied Harlan's motion to expedite the case, in a two-page order.

Neither the plaintiffs' lead attorney Jacob Huebert nor Orr could be reached for comment Monday.

Jim Tenuto, the state election board's assistant executive director, told Courthouse News after receiving the complaint in August, "We just administer the laws."

"Whatever the court decides we'll follow," he said.

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