Democratic legislators in Illinois were able to pass legislation that expands voter access and education in Illinois jails. SB 2090, which Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law, directs county jails and election officials to establish procedures to allow people who are detained to vote. The bill also establishes measures to inform individuals after release from prison about their right to vote and provides individuals with a voter registration application. Illinois also passed legislation (HB 2541) to establish a non-partisan civics peer education program for citizens discharged from custody to educate them on the voting process, government, and current affairs.

In a statement on signing the legislation, Gov. Pritzker said “It’s a new day in Illinois – one where we not only recognize the sanctity of the vote but commit to doing everything we can to invite everyone who is eligible to fully participate. In Illinois, we understand that every vote matters and every vote counts. Illinois will continue to stand strong, even as our country takes a dangerous turn toward deeper disenfranchisement of minority communities. Especially as the Voting Rights Act remains gutted, especially as jurisdictions across the nation purge voter rolls and restrict registrations in college towns and communities of color, here in Illinois, we’ll do our best to live up to the ideals of our democracy.” The legislation is a big win for making voting more accessible

Democrats also introduced other measures that would improve voting rights in Illinois, including bills to expand the early voting period (SB 1253), establish a permanent vote-by-mail list (HB 3615), pay for return postage for vote-by-mail ballots (SB 1637HB 3429), expand registration to 16- and 17-year old voters, and lower the voting age to 17 years (HJRCA 28). But none of those bills moved forward this session.

At the same time, Illinois Republicans were trying their best to make it harder for voters to vote. GOP legislators introduced restrictive voter ID bills (HB 2995HB 1493HB 243) that would suppress the vote in Illinois. Fortunately, the legislation did not pass.