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Madigan on Voting Rights: 'We Don't Know What The Future Holds'

Speaker Michael Madigan
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The Illinois House has approved a proposal to add protections for voting rights to the Illinois Constitution.

The measure is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan himself.

In explaining why he thinks it's necessary, he recalled the federal Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to "modify" parts of that law.

"That modification by the Supreme Court has apparently brought on efforts in other states to enact legislation that some of us would consider to be voter suppression," Madigan says, pointing to voter ID laws.

The speaker, who presides over a large Democratic majority, acknowledged he's not aware of any Illinoisan being denied the right to vote because of his race or any other characteristic.

"Some might say: 'Well today in Illinois, you don't need this. Voter suppression wouldn't happen in Illinois,' " Madigan says. "Well we don't know that. We don't know what the future holds."

Outside observers suggest something else could be going on. As voters would have to approve the amendment at this fall's election, getting it on the ballot could be an attempt to drive Democratic turnout.

The measure passed the House overwhelmingly — 109 to 5. It's already advancing in the state Senate.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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