Chicago Board of Elections surpasses 500K Vote by Mail ballot applications, quadrupling the city's all-time record

Cook County Jail detainees begin early voting; Sheriff Tom Dart calls effort 'significant' during 2020 election

ByJesse Kirsch WLS logo
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Cook County Jail detainees begin early voting
Sheriff Tom Dart calls effort 'significant' during 2020 election

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Vote by Mail applications for the 2020 election have quadrupled the all-time record, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

The Board tweeted Saturday that they have surpassed 500,000 Vote by Mail applications, marking what is typically half of the voter turnout in Chicago for a Presidential Election.

Polling locations at the Cook County Jail also officially opened Saturday for detainees to vote early.

"Today marks the first time in history that a jail, will serve as a polling location, and a general election, during a presidential election," Stevie Valles, Executive Director of Chicago Votes

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart held a press conference Saturday morning to discuss the new voting opportunity ahead of the November election.

Cook County Jail detainees can begin early voting Saturday.

RELATED: Chicago early voters, some elderly, brave long lines, chilly weather during election 2020

Chicago's early voters, some elderly, are braving long waits and chilly weather to make their voices heard.

Dart said throughout election day he expects 2,000 detainees, or roughly half the jail population, to cast a ballot.

"People are putting hurdles up to voting everywhere throughout this country, making it more and more difficult to vote," said Dart. "Here in this county we're very, very proud to say, we not only don't do that, but we insist on our detainees in jails to vote, and we tried to make it as easy as possible for them to do that."

It's a mission he shares with Stratton.

""Always remember that many of the people being detained in our county jails are lingering there simply because they cannot afford bail."

Stratton is touting a law recently signed by Governor JB Pritzker which ensures pre-trial county jail detainees have the right to vote.

"We are providing access, where there was suppression and providing clarity where there was confusion. This polling place at the Cook County Jail gives equal access to the ballot box."

Early voting will be available for detainees this weekend and next. Dart said because partner organizations are providing civic lessons, detainees will be among the most well-informed voters.

Stratton also emphasized what detainees should know about when they exit the justice system.

"The fact that when they exit, our prison system, their voting rights are restored." said Stratton. "They can vote here in Illinois, regardless of having a record."

RELATED: Long wait times, technical issues reported as early voting sites open in all wards across Chicago

In Chicago alone, 17,927 people have already voted early.

Those numbers will soon go up as detainees cast their ballots in the General Election that is just a few weeks away.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman also cast their votes Saturday afternoon.

They brought their daughter along to the early vote site for Ward 35 at NEIU El Centro.