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Inmate Voting

I'd like to give some props to the Denver County Sheriffs. A few weeks ago, I asked them if the eligible inmates (those in pre-trial detention or not convicted of a felony) would be allowed to vote and was told yes.

Earlier today, I was at Denver's Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center and asked my client, a federal detainee, if he in fact got to vote. He said yes. [More...]

He said a woman had come to the jail, and the inmates met with her two at a time, a process that took hours. She took his information, and since he was still registered from 2008, she gave him a ballot. He filled it out and gave it back to her. She left with all the inmate ballots. He estimated a few hundred inmates had voted.

While scenes like that played out at other jails across the country, including Washington, D.C, San Francisco and jails in Maine and Vermont, it's still a rarity. And not much is done about it.

There are 700,000 inmates in county jails awaiting trial or not yet sentenced on misdemeanors. I don't know if that figure includes federal pre-trial detainees, who are housed both in federal detention centers and local county jails. In 2011, of 112,000 cases activated, about 75,000 federal inmates were denied bond. (See table H-14). 39,000 were immigration cases, which leaves about 36,000 who potentially could vote. (Table H-14A.) Also, many cases in which defendants are detained last well over a year, and these figures don't include those detained in 2009 or 2010 whose cases are still pending.

Unless they have a prior felony conviction, or are not a U.S. citizen, pre-trial detainees are eligible to vote. In Colorado, even those with a felony conviction can vote once their sentence (including probation or parole) is over. While some federal pre-trial detainees in Colorado are housed at the Federal Detention Center in Englewood, many more are housed at the Denver, Jefferson County, Douglas County and Clear Creek County jails. That's a lot of potential votes. I don't know if all of them got to vote, but I'm grateful that at least one of my clients did -- not surprisingly, he voted for Obama and Amendment 64.

On a less important note, it's also something to keep in mind about polling: There's no way to poll jail inmates, since most jails don't allow inmates to receive telephone calls, only make them.

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    Jared Loughner (none / 0) (#1)
    by bmaz on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 04:21:39 AM EST
    I asked this same question earlier re Jared Loughner. He is back in Arizona, but won't be sentenced until Thursday. Did he get to vote?  My guess is no, but it is an oddly curious question, at least to me.

    has he been sentenced? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 05:16:02 AM EST
    He pleaded guilty but a conviction isn't final until one is sentenced.

    Parent
    Nope (none / 0) (#3)
    by bmaz on Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 08:59:01 AM EST
    As I said, sentencing not until Thursday. And the congressional district he would have voted turned from blue to red by an extremely narrow squeaker last night as Gifford's former staffer Ron Barber (who is not a very good Dem to be honest) lost to a former female Air Force pilot. Thus why I thought it was an interesting question.

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    good (none / 0) (#4)
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    Parent