Cook County Jail Votes

The intersection of voting rights and criminal justice reform

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, 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.

 

 

The intersection of voting
rights and criminal justice reform

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, 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.

 

 

On The Road

Our work in the Cook County Jail has inspired organizations and jails across the country to adopt our framework.

2018 CCJ Votes Report

Read the report!
House Bill 2541

Become a Supporting Organization

Chicago Votes, in partnership with Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the Just Democracy Coalition, is advocating for the passage of House Bill 2541 (HB 2541), the “Re-entering Citizens Civics Education Act.” HB2541 will provide re-entering citizens with a non-partisan, peer-taught, civic education program. The civics classes will cover the voting process, government systems, and current affairs. We need more organizations to sign on and help us pass this bill!

Click Here to join the fight!
Senate Bill 2090

Chicago Votes drafted and is currently pushing a bill in the Illinois Legislature SB2090. If SB 2090 passes, Cook County Jail will become an official polling location for the first time in history.

In addition, it will:

  1. Require each voter be provided with a “Know Your Voting Rights” guide upon release from all Department of  Corrections,
  2. Ensure that each person transitioning into the re-entry process is given a voter registration form, and
  3. Require each jail in Illinois to run an election process in the jail either through absentee or establishing temporary polling locations.

Want to add your name to support this legislation?

Fill out a witness slip!
Learn More

Voter Registration

Chicago Votes volunteers enter the jail every second Sunday of the month to register community members in pretrial detention. Chicago Votes has been coordinating voter registration drives in the CCJ since September 2017!

Legislation

Our work with previously incarcerated youth paired with our voter registration efforts in the CCJ uniquely positioned our organization to work in tandem with the ACLU of Illinois and the Shriver Center on poverty law to draft our first piece of legislation that marries our commitment to voting rights and criminal justice reform.

CCJ Elections

Chicago Votes has facilitated 2, jail wide elections. This was executed in partnership with the Cook County Jail, Cook County Clerk's office, Chicago Board of Elections, and the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.