The Illinois General Assembly has approved a plan aimed at making sure people in jails can exercise their right to vote.
Several counties – including Cook and Champaign – already have programs meant to remind detainees they can vote. Cook County has its own temporary polling place inside its jail while others would have to help inmates to vote by mail.
Khadine Bennett, director of advocacy and intergovernmental affairs with the ACLU of Illinois, said she hopes Gov. Bruce Rauner signs the proposal into law. “This is a governor who’s said that he believes in redemption and rehabilitation it’s a bipartisan bill – it got out of both chambers with bipartisan support, because this is about the idea that people don’t lose this right,” she said.
Bennett said the measure would have the State Board of Elections create “know your rights” pamphlets for the formerly incarcerated since many don’t know their right to vote is reinstated upon release. It would be up to the Department of Corrections to distribute them.
But not everyone agreed with what the measure is trying to accomplish. During a House debate in April, some legislators argued former inmates and pre-trial detainees should self-initiate the process. Despite the opposition there, the vote was 64-37.
Among opposition in the Illinois Senate was Chris Nybo – an Elmhurst Republican. He said he believes the initiative is a “prison-voter drive” funded by taxpayers.“I think it does raise a questionable – let me put it this way – I think it raises an ethics question, whether we should be using government resources to essentially run a get out the vote program.”
The vote there was 38-17.
The measure now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner. If he signs it, it will go into effect until the 2020 elections.