Skip school, go vote: Pritzker signs bill excusing students from school for elections

By Staff Report, News Desk

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill on Wednesday that would allow students to leave school for up to two hours to vote in any Illinois election without being marked absent by their teachers. 

The idea for SB 1970 was brought to state Sen. Elgie Sims by students from Thornton Fractional North High School and Thornton Fractional South High School according to a release from the office of the governor. 

The bill allows 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. 

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Students can be excused to exercise their right to vote on a day in which early voting is offered or on the day of the election, the school may specify the hours in which students may be excused according to the bill.

“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,” Pritzker said in the release. “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.”

Sims said the advocacy of the students in his district inspired him to sponsor the bill. 

“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,” Sims said. “Hopefully, this new law will excite Illinois students and encourage them to take their civic duty as voters seriously.”

Smith said voting is one of the most important civic responsibilities people will hold in their lifetime.

“It’s important that we work to encourage young people to vote by removing barriers that could restrict them from making it to the polls,” Smith said. “Providing an opportunity to briefly leave school during an Election Day grants our young voters a chance to have their voice heard when they may not be able to make it to the polling booth otherwise.”

In addition to Sims, the bill was sponsored by state senators: Robert Peters, Julie Morrison Mattie Hunter, Christopher Belt, Scott M. Bennett, Laura Murphy, Ram Villivalam and Jacqueline Collins.

It was sponsored in the house by: Smith,  Robyn Gabel, Lindsey LaPointe, Celina Villanueva, Justin Slaughter and Carol Ammons.

The bill takes effect June 1. 2020.

The Daily Egyptian’s News Desk can be reached at 1-618-536-3329, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @dailyegyptian.

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