April 24, 2023
The Honorable Don Harmon, Senate President
300 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Dear Senate President Harmon,
Thank you for your Executive Committee vote last week in support of legislation to help with the proper implementation of the ban on prison gerrymandering.
We are representatives of organizations with Illinois members and supporters across the state and we are writing to respectfully ask for your continued support of HB1496, introduced in the House by Rep. La Shawn Ford and carried in the Senate by chief sponsor, Sen. Robert Peters. We urge you to please call it for a vote in the Illinois Senate.
In 2021, the Illinois General Assembly, along with Governor J.B. Pritzker, approved historic criminal justice reforms, making them the law in Illinois. One part of that legislative package was the No Representation Without Population Act. It rightfully restored representation for people who are incarcerated at the time of the U.S. Census in their home communities, rather than in the prisons where they temporarily are being held.
Since that time, we have been working to ensure that the law is implemented properly and that representation is truly restored for people affected by outdated U.S. Census Bureau rules that give disproportionate representation to the communities where prisons are located, undermining the bedrock principle of “one person, one vote.” Through our work, it has become increasingly clear that the Illinois Department of Corrections does not have the last-known addresses for an overwhelming majority of people in their facilities in any usable format.
Without these crucial addresses, incarcerated people will continue to be underrepresented in state government. HB1496 aims to solve this challenge by removing barriers that currently exist in how last-known addresses are collected. It prioritizes information flow from different levels of government, utilizes existing data; and provides an opportunity for self-reported data from those directly affected by the law by:
- ensuring addresses collected at the local county government level are transmitted to the Illinois Department of Corrections,
- allowing addresses collected for post-releases programs to be used if a last-known address is not on record, and
- allowing a person to self-report their own last-known address by requesting to update their master file.
With these changes, we believe this historical practice that essentially steals representation will become history itself.
The bill passed out of the House on a 71-38 vote and, on April 19, 2023, as you know, the Senate Executive Committee favorably reported the bill to the Senate floor on an 8-2 vote, with no organizations or state agencies slipping in opposition. We hope that the Illinois Senate can call and pass HB1496 prior to the May 11th 3rd reading deadline. In addition to Sen. Peters, chief co-sponsors are Sens. Kimberly Lightford and Mattie Hunter, and other sponsors include Sens. David Koehler, Cristina Castro, Napoleon Harris III, Laura Murphy and Ram Villivalam.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important legislation.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Common Cause Illinois
CHANGE Illinois Action Fund
Roberto Valdez, Jr.
Midwest Policy Director
Illinois Alliance for Reentry and Justice
Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative
Prison Policy Manager
John Howard Association
Allyson Haut, Ph.D
League of Women Voters of Illinois
Dr. Dilara Sayeed
Muslim Civic Coalition
Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
Founder & President
Bishop Tavis Grant
Acting National Executive Director
Workers Center for Racial Justice