This Is The 1st Year Vote-By-Mail Is Mandatory In Illinois County Jails

Oct 6, 2020

Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote by mail in Illinois.

Most people in county jails haven’t been convicted of a crime. And those people awaiting trial are still eligible to vote. If you're a registered voter, you may still request a mail-in ballot while you're detained before the election. 

2020 is the first year where county jails in Illinois are mandated to have a vote-by-mail system in place for those people. 

Joyce Klein is the chief of corrections in DeKalb County.

She said they’ve been doing it for around 20 years. But now they’re providing each person with a voter registration form and application to receive a ballot if they’re already registered. 

“Even before we gave that out to everyone, we were seeing a higher interest in voting this time around,” she said.

They’ve also put up posters in the jail to make sure people know their rights.

Klein said 17 people have submitted a registration form, and 10 of those have applied for a ballot. 

Klein also said she doesn’t know if there’s an option for people who are detained after the vote-by-mail deadline has passed to vote in the election. 

This is LaSalle County’s first time offering vote-by-mail. 

Jason Edgcomb is the LaSalle County jail superintendent. 

“If you're sentenced to DOC or the county jail, then you're not eligible to place your vote was pretty much my best understanding, which was an eye-opener for me, because that actually is quite a few people then that we have housed here that become eligible,” he said.

Edgcomb said they’ve also tried to help people get applications who are registered in different counties or even different states.

He said, unlike DeKalb County, they haven’t been providing people with registration forms and ballot applications, and instead wait for people to request the information.

In LaSalle County, Edgcomb said around 75% of the 150 or so people they normally house have not been convicted. They’ve had only two people in the jail who will receive ballots to vote while they’re in custody.

Alex Boutros is with Chicago Votes, a voting rights advocacy group. She said that many people in jail aren’t aware that they’re eligible to vote. 

Before the law went into effect, Chicago Votes said they reached out to county jails and less than 10 responded that they had vote-by-mail systems.