Last week, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HB 4469, a critical bill that would take steps to promote more equitable voting rights for the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised Black residents who are targeted by the criminal justice system at disproportionately high rates.
Last week, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HB 4469, a critical bill that would take steps to promote more equitable voting rights for the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised Black residents who are targeted by the criminal justice system at disproportionately high rates. The proposed legislation, which was introduced by State Representative Juliana Stratton, would mandate that all Illinois county jails establish a vote-by-mail program and designate Cook County Jail as an official polling location. The bill would also require the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) to provide inmates with a voter registration application upon release.
Current electoral policy in Illinois allows detained individuals awaiting trial to participate in elections. However, due to a lack of oversight, jails routinely restrict inmates’ access to the ballot. Black Illinoisans, who represent 74% of the 20,000 eligible voters held in pretrial detention statewide, are particularly impacted by inmate voter suppression.
State election law also extends voting eligibility to the four million formerly incarcerated individuals residing in Illinois. However, research indicates that the overwhelming majority of community members with felony records are unaware of their right to vote. Hundreds of thousands of Black Illinoisans are thereby, in effect, systematically disenfranchised.
The racist origins of Illinois’ jail and prison based voter suppression practices date back to the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which ostensibly extended suffrage to Black male citizens. In the years that followed, white Illinoisans waged a two-pronged campaign aimed at repressing Black suffrage. The state simultaneously adopted jail and prison disenfranchisement practices, while escalating incarceration rates of Black men in order to systematically deny ballot access to newly eligible voters.
Illinois’ current electoral policy promotes the same anti-Black objectives, effectively barring a large voting block of disproportionately Black Illinoisans from electing officials that represent community interests, such as police accountability, criminal justice reform, labor rights, and equitable economic investment.
Please join WCRJ as we fight to protect the electoral rights of hundreds of thousands of voters impacted by Illinois' racist criminal justice system. Call your State Senator to urge a "yes" vote on HB 4469. And call (217-782-0244) or write Governor Rauner to demand he endorse HB 4469 and sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.
Thank you for your commitment and support!