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Illinois lawmakers consider bill to allow inmates to vote from prison

Legislation would make Illinois the third state in the nation to allow convicted felons behind bars to vote in elections.

Published: October 20, 2021 5:35pm

Updated: October 20, 2021 10:40pm

(The Center Square) -

An Illinois state lawmaker says his bill to allow convicted felons behind bars to vote absentee in elections will pass the House. A state Senator doesn’t see it happening.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said his amendment to House Bill 828 would make Illinois the third state in the nation to allow convicted felons behind bars to vote in elections. That includes convicted murderers, Ford said.

“It means that anyone that’s incarcerated in one of our prisons in our state will have the ability to cast their ballot,” Ford told WMAY.

If the measure becomes law, the prisoner would cast an absentee ballot for the jurisdiction of their home address.

“Our goal is to not make people worse when they go into our prisons, it is to make them better and return them back as better citizens, and this is one step towards that,” Ford said.

State Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, has a background in corrections. She said giving prison inmates the ability to vote is a terrible idea. And, not just for giving a right to people whose rights are taken away for criminal convictions. She said it has the potential for a gang chief to influence other inmates.

“Not influence them in the way where we do commercials or you do mailers, but someone who basically says you’re going to vote this way or I’m going to beat you,” Bryant said. “Very, very dangerous.”

Ford said he has the votes to get it out of the House.

Bryant doubts that, especially if the public is aware of the bill.

“People ask me all the time ‘you’re in a super-duper minority, what are you going to do about anything,’ and I tell them ‘we expose,’” Bryant said. “That’s all I can do right now is expose all of this stuff that individuals are trying to do. This should be another one that we should be making sure that our folks at home know how bad an idea this is.”

The measure is in the Rules Committee, but could be pushed out to a substantive committee during the remaining days of the veto session.

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