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Aquino: Rauner’s voter protection is an assault on minority voting rights

aquino 031518SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rauner vetoed legislation today that would end Illinois’ participation in the controversial Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which is used to detect voters who are registered in more than one state. Critics say the system is a cybersecurity liability and has been used as a tool to blatantly oust valid names from voter rolls in other states.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2273, would have required Illinois to use the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) instead of Crosscheck. ERIC uses tougher security protocols and more information to guarantee that personal information is correct and safer from hacking.

State Senator Omar Aquino issued the following statement in response to the Governor’s veto:

“By issuing this veto, Governor Rauner has effectively traded the personal information of Illinois voters for political advantage. The Crosscheck system is a cybersecurity liability, which puts millions of Illinois voters’ personal information at risk of being stolen.

“Crosscheck also has been used to illegally eject valid voters from voting rolls for simply sharing a name with an out-of-state voter. This hurts minority communities most, as we are more likely to share last names. In another state, the Crosscheck system flagged one out of every six Latino voters and over 99 percent of flagged names turned out to be perfectly legal registered voters. This veto is an assault on minority voting rights.”

The Crosscheck system generates matches by comparing first and last names of voters in each state, ignoring middle names and designations like Jr. or Sr. This practice disproportionately affects communities of color who are more likely to have name commonalities, making them easy targets for voter suppression.

In the state of Iowa, out of 240,000 “matches” Crosscheck flagged, only six turned out to be cases of potential voter fraud, according to a statistical analysis by researchers at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Microsoft. An investigation by Rolling Stone magazine also concluded that these false positives disproportionately affect people of color, finding that Crosscheck flagged one in six Latinos, one in seven Asian Americans, and one in nine African Americans as potential double registrants.

Senate approves Aquino’s measure to end driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fees

aquino 053118SPRINGFIELD – Legislation advanced by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) would remove driver’s license suspension as a penalty for several offenses unrelated to bad driving, such as falling behind on unpaid tickets.

The measure upholds firm penalties for road and safety offenses while aiming to prevent driver’s license suspensions of good drivers for non-driving related offenses, a practice that supporters of the initiative argue limits job prospects and puts employment at risk.

Originally an initiative of the Chicago Jobs Council (CJC), Senate Bill 2411 is a compromise between the CJC, the Illinois State Police, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Secretary of State’s office.

Over 50,000 Illinois driver’s licenses are suspended each year because drivers can’t pay tickets, fines, or fees.

“For working people, the consequences of not having a driver’s license can be overwhelming,” Aquino said. “Penalizing an individual’s inability to pay a fee by revoking the one privilege they rely on to earn money is counterproductive and perpetuates the cycle of job loss and poverty. Low-income families end up paying a price far greater than just a simple fee.”

SB 2411 eliminates driver’s license suspension as a penalty for non-moving violations, including:

  • Falling behind on payment of tickets, fines, fees, or tollway violations
  • Motor vehicle fuel theft
  • Being judged to be a “truant minor”
  • Criminal trespass to a vehicle
  • Sales of alcohol to a minor
  • Illegal consumption (unless the individual was an occupant of a vehicle at the time of the offense)
  • Suffering from a mental disability or disease since the license has been issued

If passed, the legislation would also reinstate driving privileges for individuals whose license was suspended for such offenses.

SB 2411 was approved by the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration.

Aquino measure to gather classroom data, set reduced class size goals passes General Assembly

aquino 052418SPRINGFIELD - In order to improve the state’s ability to study class sizes, school districts in Illinois would be required to report various sets of classroom data to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) under legislation advanced out of the Illinois Senate today by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).

The legislation, House Bill 5481, aims to shed light on data related to class sizes and teacher caseloads in Illinois, while setting class size goals that give students their best chance at succeeding inside and outside of the classroom, according to Aquino.

HB 5481 requires school districts to report the following criteria no later than the 60th day of each school year:

  • the pupil-teacher ratios for each school district
  • the number of teachers employed by each school
  • the number of class instructors by grade level and subject
  • each individual class size and total caseload for each teacher

ISBE would be required to post the data on its website by Dec. 1 of the same year.

HB 5481 also sets the following class size goals for the General Assembly for the start of the 2020-2021 school year:

  • 18 students or less for kindergarten;
  • 22 students or less for grades 1 through 5;
  • 25 students or less for grades 6 through 12; and
  • 150 student’s or less for each teachers caseload

“Reducing teachers’ caseloads improves student performance at every level by maximizing student engagement, allowing for concentrated instruction and fostering better classroom relationships, all of which are major factors in a student’s long-term success,” Aquino said. “This bill sets the framework for giving our students their best shot at achieving their full potential.”

HB 5481 now awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

Aquino measure to expand voting access and education in county jails passes General Assembly

aquino 052318SPRINGFIELD – Inmates in Illinois county jails who have not been convicted of a crime would be guaranteed an opportunity to vote under legislation advanced out of the Illinois Senate today by State Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).

The legislation, House Bill 4469, would ensure all current and former inmates are aware of their voting rights and given a fair chance to register and cast ballots.

While individuals who are awaiting trial and have not been convicted are still eligible to vote, jails are not required to offer voting and only seven out of 102 counties in Illinois currently do so.

HB 4469 would require county election authorities outside Chicago to work with county jail officials to create an absentee voting program. Cook County, which voluntarily launched its first in-person voting program during the March 2018 statewide primaries, would be required to continue providing a temporary polling location during elections.

Ninety-four percent of Cook County Jail inmates are currently eligible to vote, according to voting rights organization Chicago Votes.

“It is an injustice to exclude any eligible voter from participating in our democracy,” Aquino said. “This bill will secure voting rights and increase awareness for the overwhelming majority of detainees and former convicts who are eligible.”

The measure would also require the Department of Corrections to educate former inmates on their voting status and provide voter registration materials. Convicted felons are ineligible to vote while incarcerated but regain the right following the end of their sentence.

HB 4469 now awaits the Governor’s signature to become law.

Sen. Omar Aquino

Senator Omar Aquino

2nd Senate District

Years served: 2016 - Present

Committee assignments: Appropriations I; Appropriations II;Education; Human Services; Labor; Licensed Activities and Pensions; Telecommunications and Information Technology (Vice-Chairperson).

Biography: Born and raised on the Northwest Side of Chicago; B.A. in Criminal Justice and Sociology, Loyola University Chicago; Bilingual Case Manager at Central West Case Management Unit at the Jane Addams School of Social Work; Legislative Assistant in the Illinois House of Representatives; Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth; Devoted  to improving education, aging services and human services.