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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