White backs online voter registration

White backs online voter registration

URBANA — Legislation that would allow Illinoisans to register to vote online has the backing of Secretary of State Jesse White.

Under the bill (HB 2418) awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, Illinoisans would be allowed to register online with the state board of elections.

"The verification of your signature will come from the secretary of state's office. We will verify with the board of elections your signature," White said Thursday in Urbana. "We are making this as easy as we possibly can and the verification will be with the signature of the individual."

Quinn has until early August to act on the bill. White said he is "confident" the governor will sign the legislation.

"He has a vested interest in it right now, if you understand what I am talking about," White said of Quinn, who has one announced Democratic challenger in next year's gubernatorial primary, former Commerce Secretary William Daley, and four Republicans.

White said he isn't taking sides in the Quinn-Daley race.

"I like them all. I'm noncommittal on that," he said.

Likewise, he declined to endorse state Sen. Mike Frerichs — who was with him Thursday morning during his appearance on the University of Illinois campus — for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer. Frerichs, a Champaign Democrat, has said he is interested in the office and has been campaigning statewide, although he hasn't formally announced.

"I like him a lot and I think that he has the right stuff, but I'm running for re-election and I don't want to alienate anybody else," said the 79-year-old White, who plans to run for a fifth term next year. He would become the state's longest-serving secretary of state next May.

Both Frerichs and state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, voted for the bill permitting online registration.

Jakobsson said the measure is "another way to ensure that everybody who wants to vote has that opportunity to register the easiest way, most convenient way and verifiable way for them."

Frerichs said he was confident the law could be implemented without encouraging voter fraud.

"There will be some people who will object and say that we need safeguards in place. But once again Illinois isn't taking the lead on this," Frerichs said. "Other states have done this before us, other states have shown that they can do it in a way that prevents voter fraud and encourages more participation in our democracy."

Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten, who was not at the UI appearance with White, Frerichs and Jakobsson, said he also supported online voter registration.

"If I were writing the legislation I probably wouldn't have written it exactly like this, but I think the concept is something that is long overdue," he said.

He said he was concerned that only the state board of elections, and not county clerks, would implement the law.

"It's a wonderful thing that we all support, but it's going to be buried on the worst website in the world," Hulten said. "We're ready to implement online registration in Champaign County as soon as someone tells us it's OK. We could be up and running in 30 days, but the law says state board of elections only and they have until July 1 of 2014."

White, Jakobsson and Frerichs also spoke up for a new state law that allows 17-year-olds to vote in March primary elections if they are old enough to vote in the general election the same year.

"It's important to allow those people to participate in our democracy right away in the upcoming primary so that they can help shape the general election as well as participate in it," Jakobsson said.

"This is not something radical," Frerichs added. "Ten other states do it. The neighboring states of Indiana and Kentucky do it."

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