In the fall of 2017, Chicago Votes was asked to be the official sponsor of election activities in the Cook County Jail (CCJ). What started as a voter registration drive once a month, has expanded to include in-person election coordination, civic education courses, local administrative advocacy, and statewide legislative advocacy. The goal is simple, increase access to the ballot and civic knowledge for Illinois’ incarcerated population.
CCJ is one of the largest single-site county pre-detention facilities in the United States, admitting approximately 100,000 people annually and averaging a daily population of 6,000 people. While over 90% of those incarcerated in this facility have the right to vote, many of them do not know they are eligible to vote and are missing out on their opportunity to participate.
Chicago Votes’ CCJ Votes initiative aims to address this disconnect at a systematic level; working at the intersection of organizing and advocacy to ensure that people affected by the criminal justice system know their civic rights and responsibilities.
Chicago Votes drafted and is currently pushing a bill in the Illinois Legislature HB4469. If HB 4469 passes, this election advocacy will make a jail an official polling location for the first time in history.
In addition, it will:
- Require each voter be provided with a “Know Your Voting Rights” guide upon release from all Department of Corrections,
- Ensure that each person transitioning into the re-entry process is given a voter registration form, and
- Require each jail in Illinois to run an election process in the jail either through absentee or establishing temporary polling locations.