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Inmates Will Soon Be Able To Vote From Jail

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Despite being incarcerated, people in jail can not only vote in the next election, but will have specific sites within their facility to cast ballots.

SB2090 passed both houses back earlier this year, but has not yet been sent to Gov. JB Pritzker. Primarily, it would let anyone being held, but who has not been convicted of a crime and is awaiting trial, the opportunity to vote.  It would also let a county with a population of more than 3,000,000 to put together a temporary voting place within the jail.

The bill would require election authorities in smaller counties to cooperate with the jail to allow for an opportunity to let the inmates vote by mail. Once inmates are released, jails would be required to give them a voter registration form and information on their voting rights.

While incarcerated, SB2090 states that jail officials must provide voter registration applications and information about their rights as a voter.

Illinois State Senator Omar Aquino sponsored the measure.

"Even though we are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, too many people are systematically denied that right because of incarceration. I want to guarantee that every person in Illinois who is eligible to vote has the equal chance to voice their concerns on the ballot," Aquino said. "Participating in our democracy is a fundamental right of all citizens."

The non-partisan League of Women Voters has worked to increase voter registration among the incarcerated. Julie Shelton of LWV works with other volunteers to streamline the process.

"Interacting with the individuals there, it's pretty clear many of them have been underserved in terms of education and opportunity," said Shelton, who added that because detainees come from different areas, in-jail voting requires close to 200 different ballots. "The people we register are awaiting trial and are innocent until proven guilty. They have every right to vote, and voting is the one of the best ways to participate in our democracy and be a part of the community. "

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