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Inmates Look Forward To Voting From Jail

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Thousands of Chicagoans will have a new place to vote in November 2020.

It's a surprising spot: the Cook County Jail. A new law makes it possible.

CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley reports there's a big push to get more inmates registered to vote.

If you're looking for the most enthusiastic voters in the city, you might find them inside Cook County Jail.

"If you want to make a difference and you see things going on in society and around you, you want to vote, man," said inmate Dominick Rice.

But while jail inmates want to vote, most didn't think they could. Including David Linares.

"When they came to register us, it was a big surprise," said Linares.

Once a week, volunteers from the non-profit Chicago Votes registers voters at the jail. In the year-long period ending last October, they registered almost 3,200 inmates who can vote, if not yet sentenced, by absentee ballot.

"The more we can engage people in the jail with voting, being involved in the community, it's all good," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Derrick McMichael cast a ballot for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

"I believe in change and in order to change, you have to vote," McMichael said. "You have to find out what's going on and who to vote for."

But the biggest change may be in the attitudes of the inmates themselves.

"The majority of people being incarcerated, they feel down, like nobody love 'em no more, like nobody gives a care about our opinion and our voice," Rice said. "But being heard means a lot."

"I want to vote. I want my voice to be heard," said inmate Roderick Logan. "I want my voice to count."

The next step comes in November 2020. That's when the jail will have an actual, on site voting booth on Election Day. And that will allow the jail to provide same-day voter registration.

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