Some lawmakers, advocates want to restore voting rights to those in prison

chicago.suntimes.com
5 min read
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Lawmakers hope to bring up legislation restoring voting rights to incarcerated people next month during veto session, but opponents of the bill, including the Illinois State Board of Elections, argue the proposed measure is unconstitutional.
Some state lawmakers and voting rights advocates hope to pass legislation next month that would restore voting rights to people in prisons, a change proponents say could help connect them "to a process that's for the betterment of society."

But opponents of the bill, including the Illinois State Board of Elections, argue the proposed measure is unconstitutional.

According to an amendment to a Senate bill, a person convicted of a felony or otherwise serving a sentence in a state correctional facility "shall have his or her right to vote restored and shall be eligible to vote not later than 14 days following his or her conviction or not later than five days before the first election following the person's confinement."

Under current law, that right is denied until the person is released from prison.

Brian Harrington, who leads policy work at Chicago Votes, said that while not everyone who is incarcerated would vote if the bill passes, having the opportunity to do so would "put the onus on individuals to try to live up to being a better person" by allowing them to be involved in their communities.

Harrington offered his own experience.

Charged with murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison when he was 16, he spent his incarceration focused on "making sure that if I ever got another opportunity that I'd have enough skill, enough maturity and emotional stability to be successful" as well as bringing awareness to juvenile justice and the flaws in the legal system.

After 13 years in prison, and with the pandemic turning…
Rachel Hinton
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