Illinois state lawmakers on Friday approved a vote-by-mail expansion for Novembers general election.
The House on Thursday passed Senate Bill 1863 by 72-43 votes. It cleared the Senate on Friday by 37-19.
The bill makes sweeping changes to how voters go to the polls in November, with the biggest change being an expansion of mail-in voting. With the expansion, anyone who voted in 2018, 2019, and 2020, or people who previously registered to vote by mail, will be sent a vote-by-mail application, local outlet WICS/WRSP reported. Around 5 million Illinoisans will receive a vote-by-mail application, the report said.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told the Belleview News-Democrat he would have liked for a vote-by-mail application sent to every eligible voter in Illinois, but said the bill is “a reasonable compromise.”
State Rep. Kelly Burke, a Democrat and the bills chief sponsor in the House, argued Thursday that the legislation would “balance public health concerns with robust participation in elections.”
“It will make vote-by-mail more user-friendly, efficient, secure and accessible,” Burke told the full House chamber, which convened at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, instead of its chamber in the Illinois Capitol building, to ensure more effective social distancing amid the pandemic, the Capitol News Illinois reported.
House Republicans opposed the bill on the House floor on Thursday, with state Rep. Ryan Spain warning of the risk of voter fraud.
“My concern isnt how those ballots become postmarked, but the opportunity for ballot stuffing that can take place unsupervised after hours by political operatives,” Spain said, according to WICS/WRSP.
Spain and his Republican colleague state Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst expressed fears that unscrupulous campaign workers will harvest ballots and try to improperly influence the election.
“Theres not enough checks and balances, theres not enough security, theres not enough integrity to this ballot-harvesting drop-box system,” Parkhurst warned, according to the Belleville News-Democrat.
“No one knows what this pandemic is going to be looking like in November,” said St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook, who supports the plan on grounds that it cuts down on the risk of infection for election judges and voters, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.
The bill is now headed to Gov. Pritzker, who is expected to sign it.
The drive to expand mail balloting options during the outbreak has emerged as the centerpiece of a growing political fight ahead of Novembers election. Broadly, President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers have challenged the idea of expanding vote-by-mail, arguing it is vulnerable to fraud. Democrats and voting rights groups say itRead More From Source