From jail cell to ballot box: City registered 547 incarcerated voters
New York City is getting out the vote among people in jail.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that a landmark voter registration drive signed up 624 people in city jails and another 273 jailhouse visitors to vote in the Nov. 6 election. The city also submitted absentee ballot request forms for 547 incarcerated New Yorkers since the drive began in August.
“Voting gives people a chance to have their voices heard and weigh in on important issues that affect all of our lives,” said de Blasio. “With this initiative, we’re helping many more incarcerated individuals participate in our democracy and have their voices heard.”
In August, the city announced that for the first time ever, it would facilitate direct pick-up and delivery of voter registration forms and absentee ballots, bypassing the jail mailing system. The effort was a partnership among the Department of Correction, the Legal Aid Society and the Campaign Finance Board.
“Voting access must be expanded and protected in our city. That applies to everyone, including people in custody,” de Blasio said in August. “This initiative will help more incarcerated New Yorkers participate in our democracy and have their voices heard.”
Prisoners who have been convicted of a crime cannot vote in New York state until they complete probation or parole, but roughly three-quarters of Rikers detainees have not been convicted of a crime. Thousands of people are in jail while they await trial, often because they cannot afford bail.
DOC Commissioner Cynthia Brann said in August that her department had a “duty” to meet the constitutional rights of the Rikers detainees — including the right to vote.
“Even though most people in our custody are here only a short time, it is our duty to help them by ensuring that they have appropriate access to the electoral process,” Brann said. “Reminding the incarcerated that their vote matters is a powerful way of reinforcing their ties to our community and is just as important as the many job training and re-entry programs we offer every day.”
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