Illinois primaries are March 17 and we know all you folks are excited for the campaign season — and excited that the campaign season will come to an end Nov. 4.
For you parents, students and education administrators out there, pay attention to the following.
To fuel the younger generation with the excitement of the democratic process, Illinois has just passed legislation allowing anyone who is eligible to vote and is a student in school to be entitled to be absent from school for a period of two hours during the school day in order to vote.
A student per this new law will not be considered a truant.
This school-absence law applies to primaries, general elections, special elections or any election at which a proposition is submitted to the popular vote in this state. The student’s school may specify the hours during which such eligible students may be absent.
This law is applicable not just on the day an election is held, but beginning on the 15th day before the election day of such elections. Remember, Illinois provides for early voting opportunities in places of election authorities — typically clerk offices of counties, municipalities or other public agencies.
So, at the time of day allotted by his school, the high school star wide receiver may then run his route to the county clerk’s office anytime within 15 days or thereafter before election day so as to break the plain of the ballot box with his ballot.
Hopefully without interference from Russia.
And indeed, it may be wise to vote early. Two hours may not be sufficient time to get through a line, especially this year where turnout may be profound owing to the profound issues at stake.
The school-absence law becomes effective June 1 of this year so will not be available for the Illinois March primaries.
By the way, on election days employees in Illinois are entitled to a two-hour leave from work without penalty for voting in general, special or proposition elections with at least one day’s notice to the employer. In primary elections, it is only with the employer’s consent does an employee then have the right to take two hours off to vote.
The intent of this school law is to spur younger folk to get plugged into participating in the voting process.
Interestingly the law does not define “school.” Thus can “school” under this law include a university or other secondary education beyond high school?
If this law had been around in my day, I would’ve declared to my law school professor that I could lawfully skip his constitutional law class for two hours so I could exercise my constitutional right to vote.
Regardless of the definition of “school,” one must be at least 18 years old to vote.
In Illinois a 17-year-old can vote in a primary if they would be 18 by the date of the following general election.
With the length and intensity of campaigns these days, a 17-year-old might feel like 30 by the time the general election gets here in November.
Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. Send questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820.