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Local News

State law expanding same-day voter registration will cost Will County $1 million

WILL COUNTY – A new state law making permanent same-day voter registration – first piloted in the November election – is sure to be a $1-million headache for the county, Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots told members of the county board’s Finance Committee on Tuesday.

That’s about how much it’s going to cost to comply with Senate Bill 172, passed last month, that requires Illinois counties with a population of at least 100,000 to offer same-day voter registration at every polling place beginning with the March 2016 election.

In the county’s case, that’s 303 polling places – a substantial increase from the five locations that offered same-day registration in the Nov. 4 election.

Schultz Voots said the county will have to find money to equip each location with electronic poll books – or computer tablets with voting capabilities – as part of the state’s contracting with the Electronic Registration Information Center, a multi-state data-sharing system that streamlines voter data records. Those devices alone will cost about $528,000, according to estimates.

Only 628 people registered and voted on Election Day in Will County, according to the county clerk’s office, leading some county board members, including County Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, to believe the $1 million in start-up costs might not be worth it. That’s equates to about $1,600 a vote.

“This involves so few voters. How do you justify the expense to let a handful of people vote?” Moustis said.

People have several months leading up to Election Day to register, and have the options of voting absentee or early.

Schultz Voots said allowing same-day registration in every election precinct is worrisome, noting the county don’t have the technological means to prevent someone who registers and votes in one precinct and one county to do the same later in another.

Unlike in the November election pilot program, same-day registration votes will also be fed directly into the system as valid without question, Schultz Voots said. In the last election, those votes were considered provisional and set aside until their validity could be confirmed.

Court fee advances

In other news, the county board’s judicial committee voted to push forward a $25 court user-fee to help pay for construction of a new courthouse. The county’s board Executive Committee will vote on the proposed fee at its Thursday meeting. No one spoke in objection to the fee at a public hearing held Tuesday.

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