State government bureaucracy doesn’t have a great reputation for efficiency, but in recent months we’ve seen lapses in the administration of state government that are unacceptable. When it comes to our most basic rights, like the right to keep and bear arms or the most sacred institutions – like free and fair elections – there is no room for error.
Lawmakers recently learned that the Secretary of State’s office accidentally registered 574 self-identified non-citizens to vote through Illinois’ Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) program. Of those, 545 completed the registration process, and we now know that at least one non-citizen voted in an Illinois election after being registered in error.
In addition to these wrongful registrations, we also learned that state election officials had to intervene and halt the automatic registration of 4,700 16-year-olds whose information was wrongly sent to the State Board of Elections by the Secretary of State’s office. Nowhere in our laws do we allow 16-year-olds to vote. Furthermore, through an investigation, we now know that not only are there issues with the AVR program itself, but AVR is being implemented outside of the lawful process that requires legislative approval of agency rules.
I have called for the temporary suspension of AVR until we get answers and until all issues are rectified. These calls were rejected. These are unacceptable errors. When it comes to our sacred right to free and fair elections, there should be zero margin for error.
Illinoisans are also experiencing serious problems with the State Police’s issuance and renewals of FOID cards and Concealed Carry Licenses (CCL). Lengthy delays, including some that mean lawful gun owners’ cards and licenses expire before new ones are issued, represent an infringement on Second Amendment rights. I hear regularly from frustrated constituents who have tried everything to renew, apply, or get an update on their case, and fear they will fall out of compliance with the law if their cards and licenses are not renewed within a reasonable timeframe.
The delays with FOID card and CCL renewals appear to be an issue of staffing resources. The State Police is simply unable to accommodate the volume of renewals they are receiving. Funds earmarked for the FOID and CCL system should provide for the hiring of additional staff, but unfortunately these funds have been the target of fund sweeps and inter-fund borrowing. What’s worse is that the democratic majority is doubling down on this failed process by rejecting Republican calls to repeal the FOID and by proposing increasing fees for FOID.
This year I am sponsoring legislation that seeks to lock down these FOID and CCL funds in much the same way that transportation dollars are locked down. That means politicians can’t use these funds for other purposes – when you pay FOID and CCL fees, they will go straight to the State Police to issue and renew these licenses. It is inexcusable that lawful Illinoisans are having Constitutionally-guaranteed rights infringed upon while funds that could be used to ensure gun owners’ compliance with laws are channeled toward other budget areas.
Taxpayers deserve to know their tax dollars are used appropriately and in a manner that allows for the efficient delivery of services. Especially when it comes to our most basic rights, like free and fair elections and our right to keep and bear arms, a 0% margin for error is not too much to ask.
State Representative Avery Bourne