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Illinois Approves Bill To Make It Easier For Jail Inmates To Vote


While the state of Idaho has just been ordered to pay for a transgender inmate sex offender’s “gender reassignment” surgery, Illinois is putting up polling places in Cook County jails!

Democrat Gov. Pritzker said they’re doing so to make, “sure that 20,000 people detained pretrial each year don’t miss out on the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Remember when prisoners were treated like, well, prisoners, and we were using tax dollars for more pressing issues than making sure inmates voted? Or, in the case of San Francisco that felons were not offended by being called “felons”?

Keep in mind that this is Chicago we’re talking about. Crime-ridden, dangerous Chicago. The governor seems more concerned about giving criminals the vote than preventing crime!

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Chicago Business has more details on the new law:

Gov. J.B. Pritzker yesterday signed a suite of criminal justice laws that burnish his progressive bona fides and expand election access and education to jail detainees and prisoners statewide. One significant change—the Cook County Jail will have its own polling place.

While the jail's population traditionally hovers around 6,000, turnout via absentee ballot voting there has been low in recent elections. Advocates hope the bill expands participation in Cook County and at jails across the state.

"Illinois will continue to stand strong, even as our country takes a dangerous turn toward deeper disenfranchisement of minority communities,” Pritzker said at the bill signing. "Especially as the Voting Rights Act remains gutted, especially as jurisdictions across the nation purge voter rolls and restrict registrations in college towns and communities of color, here in Illinois, we'll do our best to live up to the ideals of our democracy."

Besides expanding voting opportunities at jails, the bills signed today give prisoners incarcerated before 1998 time-served credit (90 or 180 days) for completing education and provide civics classes for those who are about to leave prison.

The Huffington Post also said:

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Illinois lawmakers approved a measure Tuesday to require the state to make it easier for people to vote in jail, including allowing inmates in one of the largest jails in the country to vote in person if they are eligible.

The bill requires officials in Cook County, home of Chicago, to establish a temporary polling place in the jail. Officials in other counties with less than 3 million people must offer an opportunity to vote absentee while in jail.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law. A spokesman for the Democratic governor did not return a request for comment.

The measure is significant because many people detained in jails can vote but don’t know they are eligible. Illinois, like most states, prohibits people convicted of felonies from voting while they are incarcerated, but people being held in jail are often being held before a trial or on a misdemeanor charge, meaning they can still vote. Just eight of the state’s 102 counties had formal programs to assist people in jail with voting, according to a 2018 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. Turnout in jails in those eight counties was just 13% in the 2016 presidential election and 2018 primary, according to Mother Jones magazine.

The measure also required corrections officials to take steps to ensure people who interact with the criminal justice system understand their voting rights. The officials would be required to give anyone leaving jail, prison or Department of Corrections custody with information on their eligibility to vote. Officials will also be required to give those leaving jail or prison a voter registration application.

“If returning citizens don’t know about their right to vote, they are much less likely to exercise those rights ― and it’s an essential part of democracy,” Khadine Bennett, the Illinois ACLU’s advocacy and intergovernmental affairs director, said in a statement.


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