Priorities matter. How we spend our time is a statement of those priorities. Unfortunately, time is limited in our lives and in the government bodies influencing our lives and livelihoods. As such, with limited time and resources, it matters a great deal how we spend our time in bodies like the Illinois General Assembly. Are we making the best and ultimate use of that time, addressing priorities of our constituents, or is too much time being squandered on crass appeals that are designed to secure re-elections rather than securing a more prosperous future for those we represent?
This question springs to mind this week as we saw Governor JB Pritzker sign legislation into law to make the Cook County Jail a polling place. No, seriously.
Let’s start by acknowledging that our laws allow for “pre-trial detainees” (those in jail who have not yet been convicted) to vote. They do not lose their Right to vote pre-conviction. However, over the past decade, Illinois has also extended the period of time in which one can vote. Indeed, more than 25% of Illinois voters vote before Election Day and that number grows with every election. Further, the period of time in which one has an opportunity to vote as well as the methods voters can utilize to vote have also been continually expanded in Illinois. One can cast an early vote at designated locations, one can cast a vote-by-mail with no reason needed to do so, OR one can cast a vote on Election Day.
Illinois law requires that pre-trial detainees be provided the ability to vote. However, there is no legitimate reason this cannot simply be done through vote-by-mail ballot. Yet we still saw a push this Spring to make sure these voters are accommodated by making the Cook County Jail a polling place. I voted NO and advocated strongly against this move.
With the ability for those in jail pre-conviction to vote already, why are we bending over backwards to increase their participation but not others who are unaccommodated for more “faultless” reasons? For example, those who are in the hospital. We saw no legislation in our limited time on the House floor this Spring to further accommodate voters in hospitals. In fact, the reality is that a person arrested for drunk driving with injury to another party would be more accommodated in voting than the person they injured with their actions. The alleged home intruder taken into custody would be more accommodated in voting than the homeowner they shot and hospitalized.
Again, our actions are a statement of our priorities. I wish, at some point, we would actually work together for those that everyone claims to advocate for in their glossy mailers. That or at least the other side should send the honest mailer saying you stood up for voting in jail instead of expanding voting in hospitals or nursing homes.
Again, priorities matter with limited time.