Rauner: Won’t sign bill to ease voting by jail inmates without changes

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has decided against signing a bill to expand voting rights for jail inmates unless the Illinois legislature removes a provision that requires corrections officials to inform individuals of their voting rights as they are released from prisons and jails.

Rauner issued an “amendatory veto” on Friday to a bill pushed by progressive organizations and public officials to establish a temporary polling place in the Cook County jail and voting-by-mail opportunities for inmates of other Illinois jails.

In his message to the House, Rauner wrote that he supported the “expansion of access,” but not a mandate that, he argued, would require Illinois Department of Corrections officials and sheriffs around the state to “take part in voter registration and education efforts that exceed the legitimate role of law enforcement, corrections and probation personnel.”

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Following an “amendatory veto,” the legislature can approve the changes and earn the governor’s signature, override the veto and pass the original bill, or allow the bill to die, under the Illinois Constitution.

Representative Juliana Stratton, who sponsored the bill, said she is “clearly disappointed” by the governor’s response. She said that that supporters of the bill had negotiated with the Illinois Department of Corrections and Illinois Sheriffs Association to decide on a procedure for delivering “know your rights” information to inmates exiting custody, and that it would simply involve adding information on voting rights to a packet of information that inmates already receive upon completing their sentences.

“It’s lost on me why the governor would not be in support of this information being distributed,” Stratton said.

She said she plans to consult with the coalition of supporting organizations and advocates to decide on next steps for the bill.

Jail inmates include those being held before trial, and those convicted of misdemeanors and sentenced to one year or less in custody. The prisons hold those convicted of felonies and sentenced to more than a year.

Illinois is one of 14 states that automatically restores voting rights to people with felony convictions upon release from prison. Earlier this year, the ACLU of Illinois conducted an informal survey of 170 recently released prisoners and found that nearly half were not aware their voting rights had been restored.