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Child sex offenders can't enter schools to vote
By Lee Filas | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/30/2007 12:14 AM

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People convicted of sex crimes against children are now prohibited from entering schools to vote on Election Day.

A measure signed into law by Gov. Rod Blagojevich means sex offenders whose assigned polling place is a school must use early or absentee ballots to cast a vote.

State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican, who sponsored the bill, said the aim is to protect children.

"We don't want to take away a person's right to vote, but we want to make sure school is safe for children," Osmond said Wednesday. "This law will make that happen."

Some officials have questioned whether such a law is needed. There is no known Illinois case in which a sex offender was charged with abuse while at a school voting.

State law requires sex offenders to contact police when passing within 500 feet of a school, park or other areas children may go, but no such prohibition existed in the previous voting laws.

The new law requires county clerks to designate at least one permanent or temporary early voting location a sex offender may enter.

It does not affect child sex offenders who are assigned to vote at a polling place other than a school.

Initially, Osmond wanted to send students home and force a mandatory teachers institute day on Election Day. But Osmond said bill co-sponsor state Rep. Roger Eddy, a Republican from Hutsonville and superintendent of Hutsonville Unit District 1, rejected the idea because institute days are used by teachers to further their own education.

"We heard a lot of pros and cons about the issue and decided this was the best way to handle it," she said. "Keeping sex offenders out of schools is in everyone's best interest and the right thing to do to keep kids safe."

The Daily Herald, with help from several suburban election officials, examined sex offender data against voter registration records. It found 28 of the more than 1,800 suburban registered sex offenders voted at a school during last fall's statewide elections.

Prior to the measure being signed into law Monday, some lawmakers questioned why Osmond was targeting sex offenders and not other criminals.

"What if someone had murdered a child ... or burned down a school? They'd be allowed to come in and vote?" said state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat.

The law also makes it a class 4 felony for a child sex offender to knowingly be present within 100 feet of a site posted as a school bus pick-up or drop-off location.

"This common sense legislation will protect children from sex offenders in their school and now at their bus stops," Osmond added.