Illinois’ Same Day Voter Registration Law Under Attack

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law allowing same day voter registration on Election Day.  Under the new law, people will be able to register and vote on Election Day.  The law requires larger counties, with populations over 100,000, to allow same day registration at a voter’s local precinct.  Smaller counties, those with populations under 100,000, will also allow same day registration, but only at specified locations.

This law was challenged by Patrick Harlan and the Crawford County Republican Central Committee who claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it while it mandated same day voter registration in all counties, only larger counties are required to have the registration available at each polling place where, conversely, smaller counties are only required to have registration available at the county’s central election headquarters.  Mr. Harlan argued that this violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because he alleges that this treats voters unequally.

Does Illinois’ Same Day Voter Registration Law Violate the Constitution?

On September 27, 2016, United States District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, ruled in favor of Mr. Harlan and found the law unconstitutional.  Judge Der-Yeghiayan ruled that the law did inappropriately discriminate between voters in large counties and smaller counties and, thus, violated the Constitution.  Judge Der-Yeghiayan granted a preliminary injunction which would serve to prevent the law from being in place for the upcoming November 2016 election.

The State of Illinois appealed Judge Der-Yeghiayan’s ruling.  This appeal will be heard by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  The Seventh Circuit also granted the state’s request to stay Judge Der-Yeghiayan’s ruling until the appeal is decided.  This means that voters will be able to take advantage of the same day voter registration law despite the unconstitutional ruling, at least until the Seventh Circuit makes its decision on the case.

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