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Measures to promote ballot access for inmates, students advance

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Friday, April 12, 2019  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Corrections (74) , Election Issues (not candidates) (39) Aquino, Omar--State Senate, 2 , Righter, Dale--State Senate, 55 , Rose, Chapin--State House, 110 , Sims Jr., Elgie--State House, 34
The House will take up a couple of measures designed to make it easier for jail inmates and high school students to vote.

Senate Bill 2090 would require county clerks to facilitate voting for county jail inmates who haven’t been convicted of a crime but are in jail awaiting trial.

State Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, said his bill is straightforward and will help ensure everyone has a right to vote.

A similar measure passed both chambers last year, but was vetoed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the measure may strain cash strapped county clerks.

“There is no mandate that we send county clerk resources into nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community centers, community colleges, but we are going to have through this a state mandate that we send county clerk resources into jails,” Righter said.

Aquino said if Righter wants those areas covered, he should bring a bill forward and he’ll co-sponsor it.

Several Illinois counties already have such policies in place. Aquino’s measure would mandate the policy for all county clerks.

The measure passed 37 to 17 and now goes to the House.

The House will soon take up a measure to allow high school students old enough to vote to take time out of class to vote.

State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, said his Senate Bill 1970 will help get young people to vote.

“We are trying to make sure that we encourage our young people to participate and exercise our civic duty,” Sims said.

Under state law, high school students who are 18 years old at the time of a general election can vote in the primary when they’re 17.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said there should be some way to ensure students leaving school to vote are actually casting a ballot.

“I don’t know any high school kid that wouldn’t just leave for two hours if given the opportunity, Senator Sims,” Rose said. “So that might be something you want to think about, but I think you can vote before school or after school, so I don’t know why we’re telling people to ignore their studies when there’s plenty of time before and after to do so.”

Sims said he’s happy to work on the measure in the House to address any concerns there may be. The measure passed 40 to 10 and is now in the House.