Voting and the Criminal Justice System

Every eligible voter should have access to make their voice heard through casting a vote. One group too often kept from exercising their right to vote are those involved in the criminal justice system.

In Illinois, someone still has the right to vote while they are in pretrial detention. And, one regains the right to vote after they are released from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC).

At any given time there are roughly 15,000 people in pre-trail detention in Illinois. But, without mechanisms in place they are kept from being able to vote during elections. Another 24,000  people are released from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) each year – many not knowing that this right has been restored.

Both of these groups are eligible to vote but need information about their rights. This is why we supported the passage of SB 2090. This new law, which went into effect on January 1st, 2020, expands voter access in Illinois jails and requires jails and prisons in the state to provide returning citizens with information about their voting rights upon release.

Under this law:

  • For those held in pre-trial detention
    • Eligible voters will be able to vote in elections from jail, either in-person or by mail.
    • Jails will work with county clerks to register eligible voters in their custody.
    • Jails and probation offices will have up-to-date voting rights information for people with a criminal record.
    • Upon release from jail, all eligible voters will be provided with a voter registration application. 
  • For those leaving the Illinois Department of Corrections
    • IDOC will post information about the voting rights of individuals with criminal records in all of its facilities.
    • People leaving IDOC custody will receive a voter registration application and up-to-date information about their voting rights upon release.

We have worked in coalition with our partners to create two Know Your Rights guides for people living with criminal records. We have distributed these materials to all prisons and county jails in Illinois to ensure that they have the resources they need to make this law a success. You can find these materials at the bottom of this page. We encourage you to share these resources with anyone who might find these resources helpful.