The state Senate on Thursday signed off on two constitutional amendments.
One was House Speaker Michael Madigan's (D-Chicago) proposal to crackdown on possible voter suppression efforts in Illinois. The vote was 52-0.
The measure, HJRCA 52, was approved in the House on Tuesday, meaning the amendment is now set to appear on the November ballot.
“While many states are enacting discriminatory laws that restrict voting rights, Illinois is taking steps to be on the right side of history,” Senate President John Cullerton said after the amendment passed. “I’m proud of today’s bipartisan action to guarantee fundamental rights. I especially want to thank Senator Raoul for his leadership and work to strengthen voter protections in this state.”
Under the amendment, no Illinoisan can be barred from registering to vote or casting a ballot in an election "based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, sex, sexual orientation, or income." During discussion of the amendment, one lawmaker made an impassioned speech as to why it should be passed.
“Guaranteeing all citizens access to the voting booth isn’t just a symbolic gesture; it’s a necessary response to real threats to the core value of democracy,” said State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), during debate on the issue. “I volunteered as an attorney in Florida during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and saw senior citizens, including my own 83-year-old mother, forced to stand in line for hours in the hot sun just to exercise their most basic civil right. I have witnessed the rise of the voter ID movement that threatens to disenfranchise the 3.2 million Americans, predominantly minorities and senior citizens, who do not possess photo identification. This amendment clearly states that if a policy has the effect of discriminating against someone legally qualified to vote, it’s not welcome in Illinois.”
The Senate also unanimously approved another amendment set for the November ballot involving the Illinois Constitution’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights.
The amendment, HJRCA 1, seeks to strengthen the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, put in place in 1992, because it "does not provide an avenue for victims to assert those rights in court," according to a release from State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), who proposed the measure. Last week, the House approved the resolution to place the amendment on the ballot.
If voters approve the amendment, courts would be mandated "to hear and rule on a crime victim’s request for enforcement of any of his or her constitutional rights," the news release reads. Judges would also have to "take into consideration the safety of the victim and the victim’s family members when fixing bail, determining whether to release a defendant and setting conditions of release."