Friday, September 18, 2020
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IL bill could excuse absences to vote

An Illinois bill now on Gov JB Pritzker’s desk for a signature would allow students who are eligible to vote to take up to two hours off on Election Day so they can get to the polls.

Senate Bill 1970, carried in the House by Rep Nicholas Smith, a Democrat representing Chicago, would allow high school students who are of age and eligible to vote a two-hour window on Election Day to leave school to vote in an election.

The bill would take effect in July, just months before the 2020 presidential election, and it has a few detractors.

For example, Rep Mark Batinick, a Republican from Plainfield, said he thought the bill “coddles” students, who would have plenty of time outside school hours to get to the polls or complete mail-in ballots, according to a Capitol News Service report. He also expressed concern that the bill doesn’t require students to prove they used the time off to vote.

But the majority of state senators and representatives voted for the bill and sent it to the governor’s desk: 74-40 in the Illinois House and 40-10 in the Senate, a vote that was completed in April.

“We want to encourage our young people to be engaged in civics,” Mr Smith said during floor debate. “Here is an opportunity for them to band together, leave school for a couple hours just like people do when they are at work, and go vote and return to school.”

School officials will be able to designate the time for students to be absent, but the primary purpose of the bill was to ensure that absences used for this purpose don’t count against a school’s accountability data with regard to attendance and therefore don’t cause the funding for the school to be reduced.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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