Giving Compass' Take:

• Nicole D. Porter, at The Sentencing Project, reports on removing obstacles for legally eligible inmates' voting access in jails.

• How does the lack of voting access for those in jails disproportionately impact communities of color? What are you doing to improve political awareness towards prison voting access, especially during the pandemic?

• Learn more about how and why legally eligible prisoners are not taking advantage of their right to vote.

While the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges for voters during the 2020 election cycle, voting access for the 700,000 people held in local jails around the country has long been critically compromised. This report highlights jurisdictions around the country that actively support ballot access for people detained in jails.

Felony disenfranchisement laws bar millions of Americans from voting due to their felony conviction. Among those excluded are persons in prison, those serving felony probation or parole, and, in 11 states, some or all persons who have completed their sentence. While these disenfranchisement laws have been closely documented for years by advocacy organizations, academics, and lawmakers, the de facto disenfranchisement of people legally eligible to vote in jails has received less attention.

Despite the fact that most persons detained in jail are eligible to vote, very few actually do. Jail administrators often lack knowledge about voting laws, and bureaucratic obstacles to establishing a voting process within institutions contribute significantly to limited voter participation. Indeed, acquiring voter registration forms or an absentee ballot while incarcerated is challenging when someone cannot use the internet or easily contact the Board of Elections in their community.

Problems with voting in jail disproportionately impact communities of color since almost half (48%) of persons in jail nationally are African American or Latino. Other racial groups, including Native Americans and Asians, comprise about 2% of the jail population, or 13,000 persons as of 2017.

In recent years, some jurisdictions have adopted policies and practices to ensure voting access for persons incarcerated in local jails because of initiatives developed by jail leadership and advocacy organizations. This report examines six programs designed to expand voting access for eligible incarcerated citizens. The success and expansion of these efforts will improve democracy.

Read the full article about voting access in jails by Nicole D. Porter at The Sentencing Project.