SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed automatic voter registration in Illinois Friday, saying that despite overwhelming support in the General Assembly, the legislation doesn't do enough to safeguard against fraud.
Although embracing the concept and pledging to work on revisions, the Republican's veto message battered the plan for what he perceives as weaknesses that invite breakdowns in the system's integrity.
"The consequences could be injurious to our election system," Rauner wrote. "We know that non-citizens have registered to vote in Illinois after obtaining a driver's license and voted in recent elections. ... Each of these cases of voter fraud was caught by immigration officials, not the state of Illinois."
Rauner signaled all spring he liked the idea, telling reporters at the opening of the Illinois State Fair as late as Friday morning that he advocates "making sure that everybody who should vote gets out and votes and to ease the process."
The veto caught proponents on their heels.
"What a jerk," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat and co-sponsor of the proposal. "On what grounds for heaven's sake? I thought he was in favor of the bill."
The plan would allow visitors to a handful of state government agencies — the Department on Aging and the Departments of Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services, Employment Security and the Secretary of State — to be automatically registered to vote unless they opt out. Oregon does it. It's been OK'd in several other states and two dozen states are pondering the plan.
But Rauner said the Illinois version doesn't live up to its promise. He said it doesn't comply with federal requirements that a voter be told of his or her eligibility, that he or she affirms eligibility and that an application is signed. He said it puts too much responsibility on the State Board of Elections to verify voter eligibility. Elections officials say a one-stop verification system prompted by legislation last year did not meet the July 1 deadline for implementation and it's still not ready.
Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the plan, pointed out the measure was one of the few areas of agreement last spring between Democrats and Republicans.
"The governor talks a lot about the need to streamline bureaucracy and cut government waste," Manar said in a statement. "Automatically registering voters would have allowed us to do exactly that."
Manar says he'll continue pushing the idea.
Rauner isn't ruling out the idea, suggesting the agencies registering voters use available data to verify citizenship instead of relying on the elections board — with which they can't legally share that information. He wants agencies to notify visitors if they're already registered, and at what address, so if they want to change voting information, they can without duplication.
And he wants a "realistic implementation deadline," with enough time and money provided to the elections board for building a proper database and for the other agencies to make adjustments.