Voting Opportunities Open up for Those Awaiting Trial

Jack Pifer, Staff Writer

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill improving voter education for those awaiting trial. This bill, passed just months before the 2020 elections, takes immediate effect.

The US legal system maintains a view of “innocent until proven guilty,” so detainees can still vote. It is important to realize the difference between jail and prison to understand the new bill. Jail is typically for people awaiting trial for misdemeanor charges, while prison is reserved for convicted felons serving time who are not allowed to vote, according to WTTW News. Therefore, you can rest assured knowing that no murderers are casting their ballot.

According to Huffington Post, only eight out of 102 counties in Illinois have programs assisting those being detained with voting, and in those eight counties, only 13 percent of those eligible actually vote. The new bill, SB2090, aims to raise those numbers.

County jails are now required to provide a voter registration application and detailed information about voting rights to eligible detainees, according to CI Proud.

Overall, this bill seems to be a good change for Illinois. It establishes voter education programs for people in jail, many of whom are not even aware they have the right to vote, The Western Journal reported.

In a democracy, where every vote counts, this law can have positive psychological effects on detainees, according to the Huffington Post. Educating those in jail about voting is a way for them to be heard. Detainees may have the opportunity to vote for or against a judge involved in their case or for a representative who shares their views.

While some may argue that funding voter education programs for those in jail is a waste of money and resources, I feel that giving those individuals the power to make their voice heard is important. As long as the voter education is not corrupted through bias towards particular candidates, I see it helping, not hurting.

Because detainees have not been proven guilty, they should be made aware of their right to vote. The new bill fixes the current lack of education, which is hurting democracy, and can give hope to people who previously thought they had no voice.

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