SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Emphasizing the right for citizens to have their voice heard at the ballot box, state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, has introduced a measure aimed at restoring the voting rights of current inmates in Illinois.

“When we deny the right for an individual to vote, regardless of their circumstance, we are denying an inherent American right to participate in our democracy,” Ford said. “If we truly want to allow inmates to rehabilitate and successfully reenter society, we should not restrict their ability to be civically engaged. The price citizens pay for breaking the law is the loss of their freedom. When people are in jail, they are paying their debt to society, and they should not lose their inherent right as an American citizen to participate in our democracy.”

Ford’s House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 33 proposes altering the state’s constitution to give the General Assembly the authority to expand voting rights to those who are currently incarcerated. Under current state law, inmates are unable to vote while serving their sentence. Upon release in Illinois, their voting rights are automatically restored.

Inmate voting rights vary by state, but if Ford’s proposal were to pass, Illinois would join Maine and Vermont in offering full voting rights to those incarcerated.

“Voting should not be seen as a privilege, it should be seen as a right,” Ford said. “Those who are incarcerated do not lose their citizenship, and as we tackle our present crisis of mass incarceration, it is clear to me that we are disproportionately suppressing the vote of people of color. It’s time for Illinois to become a leader in advancing rights by giving those incarcerated an opportunity to cast a ballot.”   

Rep. La Shawn FordRep. La Shawn Ford

8th District

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