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Report Digs Up Sad Fact for Voting Inmates

The Prison Policy Initiative takes a closer look at voting from jail
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2020 3:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – Most of the three-quarters of a million people held in US jails have the right to vote. But many of them are unable to, stymied by misinformation, limited access to registration, and ballots and confusion from the officials in charge. The result is widespread voter disenfranchisement, say experts with the Prison Policy Initiative, per the AP. The advocacy organization released a report detailing voting access for jail inmates with Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group formed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, on Friday. "I think that the clearest situation to this would be to make voting machines available in every jail on Election Day," PPI lawyer Ginger Jackson-Gleich said Thursday. She co-authored the report with the Rev. S. Todd Yeary of Rainbow PUSH.

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"Put simply, of the approximately 746,000 individuals in jail on any given day, most have the right to vote," Jackson-Gleich and Yeary wrote. That's because most people in jail haven't been convicted, but instead are awaiting trial on the charges for which they are being held. While those convicted of a felony lose their right to vote in most states for at least the time they are incarcerated, many of the people serving time in jail are serving time for misdemeanors, and most states allow people with misdemeanor convictions to vote. But confusion, logistical barriers, and timing issues abound. Many states rely on absentee ballots for incarcerated voters, though inmates may need to register before they can get absentee ballots, and many states require specific forms of ID for voter registration.

(Read more voting rights stories.)

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