Pritzker Signs Bill Allowing Students To Vote During School Day

Dave Dahl
January 23, 2020 - 10:21 am
Governor J.B. Pritzker

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- "May I be excused? I have to go vote."

That’s now the law in Illinois schools.

Governor Pritzker signed legislation Wednesday which will allow students to be excused from school for two hours to vote in a primary, general, special, or any election in Illinois at which propositions are submitted to a popular vote in Illinois. Students can excused to exercise their right to vote on a day in which early voting is offered or on the day of the election.

“With this new law, our voting-eligible young people will have the freedom to fit voting into their school day without fear of repercussion for engaging in the very civic education we should all be proud to encourage," said Governor Pritzker, in a statement. “The young people who advocated for this legislation recognized how important it is not only to vote, but to make the act of voting as accessible for all who can vote as possible.”

The sponsor, State Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), said high school students brought him the idea and recalls a committee hearing at which Republicans pushed back.

“One of the young people said to me, ‘Why do they not want to give us the opportunity to have a say?’” Sims said at Wednesday’s bill signing. “I said, ‘You just got a lesson in civics. You got a lesson in there are some who do not want everybody to have an opportunity to make a difference.’”

The students involved are from Thornton Fractional North High School and Thornton Fractional South High School.

“The advocacy of the students in my district convinced me I had to sponsor this legislation, and their passion helped get it over the finish line,” Senator Sims said in a statement. “Signing this plan into law broke down a barrier that has long made it difficult for them and other students throughout the state to vote. Hopefully, this new law will excite Illinois students and encourage them to take their civic duty as voters seriously.”

Under the legislation, the school does have the ability to specify the hours in which students may be excused. Senate Bill 1970 takes effect June 1, 2020.