Illinois law to give students time off school to vote


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law allowing students to take time off of school to vote.

Anushuya Thapa, Reporter

On Jan. 22, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law allowing students to be absent from school for up to two hours to vote in any popular election, including primary and general elections.

Senate Bill 1970, which goes into effect on June 1 — in time for the November elections — exempts students from punishment for taking time off school to vote. Students will be allowed to vote on Election Day and on any early voting date. The law allows the school to determine the hours during which students may be excused, however.

Evanston Township High School said in an email to The Daily that it is already taking steps to ensure that students who are eligible to vote may fully participate in the election process. ETHS’s current policies for early leave or arriving late will apply to students who are voting during school hours.

According to its website, parents can phone in the evening before or by 8:00am on the day of absence to obtain a pass for their children to be excused from classes. These passes can be used to leave early, arrive late or to skip classes during a particular time of the day.

Greg Andrus, the political committee chair for the Democratic Party of Evanston, said “short of making it a whole day off,” the legislation is a step in the right direction toward making elections more accessible.

For Andrus, the bill is set to positively impact voter turnout. Students who see their peers going out to vote on school days, Andrus said, are encouraged to take part in the political process themselves.

“The best way to tell if someone is going to vote in this election is to look at whether they voted in the last election,” Andrus said. “So by encouraging students to vote in this election, it also means that you are encouraging students to vote in the next election and the election after that.”

A group of high school students from Thornton Fractional North and Thornton Fractional South High Schools originally came up with the idea behind the bill. They presented it to state Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago), who led efforts to pass the legislation.

“I was proud to stand with the same students who fought for this bill’s passage as it is signed into law today,” Sims said in a press release. “It is crucial that voting is accessible to everyone, including our students. Their voices are just as important as state workers’, who already have time off to vote.”

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Twitter: @anushuyathapa

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