With the 2016 presidential election fast-approaching, federal and state inmates, as well as those serving under community supervision may be inquiring as to their voting rights. The United States is one of the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to restoring voting rights to convicted felons. Moreover, voting laws for inmates vary widely from state to state. Only three states allow prison inmates to vote – Maine, Vermont and most recently, Maryland. That leaves 47 states with restricted levels of voting based on an inmate’s status.
According to the Bureau of Justice, at the end of 2014, federal and state prisons held over 1.5 million inmates sentenced to more than one year in prison. Additionally, for the same time period, nearly 4.7 million people were under community supervision through parole or probation. Not accounting for state-specific regulations, this is over 6 million disenfranchised Americans who will not have a voice in the upcoming election.
So what does this mean for public entities’ inmates serving time in a local or county jail? Well, that depends on the state you’re in. For instance, in California, if an inmate is in county jail serving a state prison sentence, he/she is not eligible to vote. But an inmate would be eligible if he/she is in county jail serving a misdemeanor sentence or is in county jail because jail time is a condition of probation.
With primary elections in full swing and the presidential election right around the corner, it’s critical for your jail administrators to be aware of the regulations in your state. So much attention is given to those overseeing and administering elections, but little is paid to the rules applying to the incarcerated. Begin the research process now so when the time comes you are prepared for the election and will have a process in place that does not violate your detainee’s/inmate’s constitutional rights.
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This article is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute and is not intended to take the place of legal or risk management advice. Readers should consult their own counsel or other representatives for any such advice. Any and all third party websites or sources referred to herein are for informational purposes only and are not affiliated with or endorsed by OneBeacon Insurance Group. OneBeacon Insurance Group hereby disclaims any and all liability arising out of the information contained herein.