Illinois legislature considers expanding voting access, postponing 2022 primary election

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FILE – In this March 14, 2020, file photo, a Cook County jail inmate participates in early voting for the Illinois primary at the jail in Chicago. Most of the three-quarters of a million people held in U.S. jails have the right to vote, but many of them are unable to, stymied by misinformation, limited access to registration and ballots and confusion from the officials in charge.  The advocacy organization released a report detailing voting access for jail inmates with Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group formed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Illinois could postpone the 2022 primary election by 15 weeks and expand voting access to pre-trial suspects held in county jails under a new election measure filed in the House.

Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford) filed the new House amendment to Senate Bill 828 on Sunday, one day before the legislative deadline.

The new election bill would push back the 2022 primary from March 15th to June 28th, prolonging a primary contest where Republicans are angling to take control of one or more statewide offices.

The proposal would also grant voters “permanent vote-by-mail status” if they apply for it. The West amendment would require greater transparency from local political committees when they fill vacant seats in the General Assembly. It would also allow county sheriffs to set up a temporary polling place in their local jail for any suspects who are detained but not yet convicted.

The bill could also grant voters with disabilities to someday vote by mail from home. Most voters with disabilities use touchscreen keypads or audio-assistive devices to aid them in casting ballots at polling locations. The West amendment would require the Illinois State Board of Elections to come up with a plan to e-mail vote-by-mail ballots to voters with disabilities, and allow them to “independently and privately mark a ballot using assistive technology in order for the voter to vote by mail.”

The new proposal would also encourage voter registration at high schools, require cybersecurity risk assessments and vulnerability scans of computer systems at election authorities, and would set up statewide policies and procedures for tracking ballots through the chain of custody from curbside pickup locations to election authorities.

The House could take up the new election bill before midnight on Monday.

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