This morning, the Prison Policy Initiative and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition released Eligible, but Excluded, a roadmap to expanding voting access for people incarcerated in local jails who are already eligible to vote. The report explains – via a 50-state table and flowchart – that most of the 746,000 people in local jails retain the right to vote. The report then details the logistical barriers that prevent these voters from casting ballots, and strategies for bringing these barriers down.
“Thousands of people in jails across America retain the right to vote, but they are denied that right in every election,” Reverend Jackson said. “Many of these voters are being held simply because they are poor and can’t make bail. This form of voter suppression is a truly heinous form of social injustice and civic indignity. This report provides the data that will help us fight back against this injustice. And fight we will!”
The report provides an in-depth explanation of the most common issues preventing people in jail from voting, including:
Confusion about who is eligible to vote, among election officials as well as incarcerated people themselves
Registration-related barriers such as restrictive deadlines and a lack of access to personal information
Ballot-casting barriers including strict for-cause absentee voting policies
Population churn in jails, which means that some people who register to vote in jail may not be incarcerated on Election Day.
The report goes on to offer 29 strategies for advocates, state legislatures, election officials, and sheriffs to enable people in jail to exercise the franchise.
“In an era of criminal justice reform, protecting the right to vote for persons held in jail is among the most important reforms,” said Reverend Dr. S. Todd Yeary, co-author of the report. “The state-by-state analysis in this report sets the landscape for the policy fight to protect the right to vote for persons who are legally eligible to cast a ballot, but are unjustly prevented from doing so. This is our justice roadmap for issue advocacy in upcoming state legislative sessions, as well as policy changes by sheriffs, prosecutors, and governors across the country.”
Read the full report at https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/jail_voting.html.