Illinois Dems advance legislation to expand vote-by-mail using federal relief funds

Per Chicago Tribune, a measure to significantly expand Illinois’ vote-by-mail program in advance of November’s general election was advanced by an Illinois House committee on Thursday.

The legislation would direct election authorities to mail or email official vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to any voters who applied for an official ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 municipal elections or the March 2020 primary.

Voters who submit their application for a mail-in ballot before Oct. 1 would receive their ballot no later than Oct. 6.

Democratic Rep. Kelly Burke, the House sponsor of the legislation, said its aim is to “try to make vote-by-mail more user-friendly, efficient, secure and accessible.”

SFGate reports the Illinois House will consider expanding voting by mail for the fall election using federal pandemic-relief funds, despite Republican criticism that it could increase errors and electoral fraud.

The Democratic-controlled Executive Committee approved the plan Thursday on an 8-5 partisan vote. Rep. Kelly Burke’s proposal would encourage mail-in ballots by sending applications to anyone who voted by mail in 2018, 2019 or in this year’s primary. The Evergreen Park Democrat said it would provide a simpler and safer way to vote during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s a one-time thing, applying only to the November 3 election. But if successful, it would help Democrats push the idea into future years.

Invitations to apply for vote-by-mail would be sent by county clerks and other election authorities.

“The intent is to make sure that they’ve got funding to implement some of these things and make voting easier and safer for all the residents,” Burke said.

The cost was not immediately known.

Republicans generally oppose making it easier to vote because those who are least likely to vote under normal circumstances often lean Democrat. Republican Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria calls it a “chase” program because state government is pursuing voters and pushing them to sign up.

But they raise practical points too. Making voter registration and casting ballots easier can increase the chance for fraud or errors, as has been the case with automatic voter registration.

President Donald Trump opposes the idea and recently has threatened to withhold federal funds from Michigan after vote-by-mail was expanded there.