10 States, With 1 In 4 Voters, Live In States With Automatic Voter Registration

Andre Witcher, of Detroit, casts his ballot at the Wayne County Community College Northwest Campus. (photo: AP)

By Staff of Brennan Center for Justice – Chicago, IL – Today, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill to bring automatic voter registration to the state, which could help sign up more than 1 million eligible voters. The legislation had passed by a unanimous vote in both chambers earlier this summer. Rauner’s signature means that 80 million Americans — 1 in 4 — now live in a state where automatic voter registration has been approved. The plan would help sign up Illinoisans currently not on the voter rolls by automatically registering them when they interact with the DMV and other state agencies, unless they decline. It is an approach that not only increases voter participation, but also saves states money and increases accuracy of voter rolls. Illinois’ legislation is notable for having the potential to bring the reform to a broad range of state agencies, as opposed to other efforts around the country that focus largely on driver’s license–issuing offices. The bill, which passed 55-0 in the state Senate and 115-0 in the House, was sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar (D) and other legislators. The Just Democracy Coalition advocated strongly for the legislation, which also had the support of several local election officials including Cook County Clerk David Orr, along with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Victory For Domestic Workers In Illinois

Workers’ strike in Milwaukee in January of 2014. (Photo: Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association/flickr/cc)

By Terrance Heath for Campaign for America’s Future – The law, which is the result of a five-year campaign by the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Coalition, guarantees nannies, housecleaners, homecare workers and other domestic workers a minimum wage, protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, and one day of rest for every seven days for workers employed by one employer for at least 20 hours a week. New York became the first state to pass such a bill in 2010.

Waukegan Paid $26.1 MillionTo About 50 People Wrongly Arrested


By Dan Hinkel for the Chicago Tribune – A Tribune investigation into the Waukegan Police Department has found a troubling history of investigative failure and abuse allegations. No city police agency in Illinois, other than Chicago’s, shares responsibility for as many known wrongful convictions as the Waukegan police, who helped send six men to prison — some for decades — before they were cleared, according to an analysis of data from the National Registry of Exonerations. Waukegan police also have been inundated with abuse allegations, records show, and insurers and the city have paid out $26.1 million in police cases since 2006, outspending towns with more police and, in some cases, more violent crime. The Waukegan Police Department has been led by officers who played central roles in some of the costliest investigative failures in Lake County history, and police with troubled records have flourished in the department. Scandal and instability have plagued the agency, and the city is now run largely by former officers who have given little public indication that they detect a problem.

Bruce Rauner Is Using A Manufactured Crisis To Bust Unions

Bruce Rauner is "bringing the hammer" to working families, not Springfield. (Metropolitan Planning Council/flickr)

By Jennifer Ritter and Jacob Swenson-Lengyel for In These Times – If you like Scott Walker, you’ll love Bruce Rauner. In February, Rauner issued an executive order blocking public employee unions from collecting “fair share” fees, or payments from non-union members who nonetheless benefit from collective bargaining done on their behalf. The order is intended to decimate public employee unions, not just in Illinois, but across the nation. As unions rightfully fight the executive order, Rauner hopes the case will make it to the Supreme Court, where following last years Harris v. Quinn ruling, many experts believe conservative justices may be poised to strike down fair share fees nation wide. That was just an opening foray. Now Rauner is using the budget crisis to blackmail legislators into supporting his anti-worker policies. He refuses to raise revenue unless the state legislature, Cook County and municipalities across the state bow to his anti-union, destabilizing “turnaround agenda.”

Illinois Spent 2.4 Million Incarcerating People In One Chicago Block

A screenshot of Chicago's Million Dollar Blocks, an interactive map project showing how much was spent to incarcerate people from each block in the city. Close Chicago's Million Dollar Blocks

By Alex Nitkin in DNAInfo – In just five years, the State of Illinois dedicated more than $2.4 million to the 4800 block of West Adams Street in Austin. But don’t look for new developments or freshly paved roads on that stretch of street, because that’s not where the money went. No, $2.4 million is the amount of money the state spent on incarcerating people for drug offenses from that block alone. Million Dollar Blocks looks at more than 300,000 criminal records, showing what developers called a “conservative estimate” of how much the Illinois Department of Corrections spent on people from each block and neighborhood. Cooper said he and his colleagues assumed the minimum sentence for each offense, when in reality the state likely spends much more. Developers at DataMade spent months putting together data based on offenders’ home addresses, assuming that the state spends an average of $22,000 on each criminal every year.

Official Probe Calls On Illinois To Reconsider Salaita Firing

Students and faculty are determined to keep challenging University of Illinois administrators’ decision to fire Steven Salaita. (Jeffrey Putney/Flickr)

An official investigative committee at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is calling for the decision to fire Steven Salaita to be reconsidered. The report by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) states that: “In light of the irregular circumstances leading up to the Board of Trustees’ disapproval of an appointment for Dr. Salaita, the Committee recommends that Dr. Salaita’s candidacy be remanded to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for reconsideration by a committee of qualified academic experts.” Salaita was fired from a tenured position last August after pro-Israel donors, faculty and students mounted a campaign against him because of tweets he made excoriating Israel’s attack on Gaza.

In Secret Process Illinois Approves New Rules For Fracking

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Illinois lawmakers signed off Thursday on long-awaited rules regulating high-volume oil and gas drilling, clearing the way for companies to get “fracking” permits and unleash what they hope will be an energy boom in the southern part of the state. But a number of key details were not disclosed including how the state plans to fund the hiring of new workers to oversee the practice, which uses high-pressure mixtures to crack open rocks and release trapped oil and gas. The delay in the fracking rules — which took more than a year for the state Department of Natural Resources to write and which were revised by a legislative committee — prompted complaints from industry that energy development would suffer. The final rules must be submitted to the Secretary of State to be published by Nov. 15.

Prisoners Send Notes to Demonstrators

Row of Jail Cells

All of these killings by the police was brought about by dirty and corrupt administration officials trying to control things their way. Which we all know it wasn’t to treat us right. I’ve been going back and forth with them for a long time. I finally realized who my enemy was. In 1996 my friend got killed in Pontiac by a police on the cat walk. It is during this time that they shut down the prison as we know it. …When they brought me [to Menard] they put me in a jumpsuit that was nothing but rags and into a cell that had no heat nor any hot water and mouse shit everywhere. No matter where I go to I have to check my A.D. Status to see what is up, and by them just closing Tamms and me being locked down for so long they should of check up on me. No one did. So I went on a hunger strike.