Senate Bill 2090 passed on Wednesday in Springfield, now moving to the House Rules Committee.
The bill would make it so counties across Illinois would be required to provide mail-in or on-site voting opportunities for people in jail on pre-trial.
It would also require jails give more information to ex-convicts who are leaving jail after serving.
“Voting is a right for anyone, whether you’re in custody or out, and it’s something we all need to participate in,” said Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell. “There’s been some local elections here where one vote literally made all the difference.”
The voting and voter-information program is something that Peoria County has been doing for years.
Sheriff Asbell supports the bill completely – but warns, from his experience, there are still major roadblocks.
“Most of the people in jail don’t have an Ameren bill, or a checking account or bank statement to show proof of residency which is required by the voting commission.”
Sheriff Asbell says roughly 80 percent of the jail’s population is pre-trial, meaning they’d be eligible to vote.
But only eight percent actually did, last election.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois says eight counties (including Tazewell) already have this kind of law in the books.
“It’s about making sure that the rights we have are real,” said Khadine Bennett, the ACLU Illinois Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs Director. “Especially to people most vulnerable.”
It would not change laws barring convicts actively serving sentences from voting.
The initiative actually passed several years ago through both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by then-Governor Bruce Rauner.