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Amendment protecting Illinois voters to go on ballot

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:41 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:41 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois voters will consider a constitutional amendment this fall aimed at scuttling attempts at voter suppression after Senate action Thursday.

The Senate voted 52-0 to approve the idea brought forth by House Speaker Michael Madigan, a powerful Democrat concerned about other states’ actions to add requirements for voting or limit when it’s done.

The House endorsed the measure 107-5 on Tuesday after the Republican leader, Jim Durkin of Western Springs, signed on with Madigan as a co-sponsor.

The proposed amendment prevents people from being denied the right to register to vote or cast a ballot based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, sex, sexual orientation, or income.

Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said the proposal recognizes “the fundamental, quintessentially American concept of the right to vote.”

“This will send a message loud and clear that it doesn’t matter what your surname is, if you have earned the right to vote you will not be impeded,” Murphy said.

Nine states have made it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013 – mostly dealing with requiring identification. Some have implemented or are considering proof of citizenship. Democrats say such measures disenfranchise lower-income people – often Democrats – who don’t have IDs or money to acquire documents.

“No voter should have to face the suppression tactics that we see in other states across the nation,” Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said in a prepared statement as he encouraged voter approval.

Sen. Kyle McCarter, a Republican from Lebanon, noted that the sponsor, Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, intended that the amendment prohibit a voter ID law, which he suggested could prevent voter fraud in some parts of Illinois.

“It is definitely, definitely intended to discourage voter ID laws,” Raoul said. “If you cast a vote for this, you are casting a vote against voter ID laws.”

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the amendment’s success in the General Assembly sends a message from a large state about voter restrictions attempted in other states.

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