Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Felon Voting Rights

Many people with a criminal conviction aren't sure about their voting rights. It's a confusing topic, mainly because the laws to disenfranchise voters vary from state to state. Even the people who should know sometimes get confused.

If you're not sure about your eligibility to vote in Colorado due to a criminal conviction, read on. We want you to know your voting rights.

First things first. In order to be eligible to vote, you must be 18 years of age on or before the date of the election in which you want to vote, be a citizen of the United States, and live in Colorado at your present address at least 30 days prior to the election.

Next, the key to knowing who is eligible to vote in Colorado is to understand who is not eligible. Here's what the statute says: No person while serving a sentence of detention or confinement in a correctional facility, jail, or other location for a felony conviction or while serving a sentence of parole shall be eligible to register to vote or to vote in any election; however, a confined prisoner who is awaiting trial but has not been tried shall be certified by the institutional administrator and shall be permitted to register to vote by mail registration pursuant to part 5 of this article. Colorado Revised Statutes §1-2-103(4). This means the people who are not eligible to vote in Colorado are those who have been convicted of a felony and have not yet completed the sentence for that felony, including parole.
This also means the following people are eligible to vote in Colorado.
1. People with a criminal conviction who have served their sentence, including parole if required
2. People who are in jail as a pretrial detainee who have not yet been convicted
3. People currently on probation for either a misdemeanor or felony
4. People currently in jail serving a sentence for a misdemeanor sentence only

If you're eligible to vote in Colorado, we hope you will register to vote and vote. Your vote is your voice on the issues you care about, and it's how you get heard by politicians.

If you're not eligible to vote, we hope you will encourage your family and friends to vote.

Identification Documents

When you register to vote, you probably will have to provide identification documents. If you are registering to vote in person, you must provide your Colorado driver's license or Department of Revenue number (state ID). It is not necessary to present the ID; it is sufficient to provide the number.

If you do not have either a valid driver's license number or Dept. of Revenue number, you must provide at least the last four digits of your Social Security number.

If your identification can not be established, you may also be required to provide a copy of an acceptable form of identification.

For more information about identification documents, call your county’s office of the Clerk and Recorder or the Secretary of State’s office at (303) 894-2200. If you have access to a computer, you can also check online at www.sos.state.co.us. Click on Election Center and then click on Election FAQs.


Where to Get Help
If you think you are eligible to vote and are told you may not by an election clerk, please contact the Secretary of State's office for help. Their telephone number is (303) 894-2200. You may also contact CCJRC at (303) 825-0122 for assistance

CCJRC has written and distributed a voter education brochure titled CAN I VOTE? The following questions and answers from the brochure are to help people understand how a criminal conviction may or may not affect their current right to vote.

I have a criminal conviction in my past. Can I vote?
In Colorado, you have the right to vote after you have served your sentence. Remember, if you were incarcerated for a felony, any period of parole is considered to be part of your sentence. The day you complete your sentence is the day you become eligible to register and vote.

Will I be notified when I'm eligible to vote?
No. The right to vote is automatically restored, but you will not be notified.

Do I have to prove I have completed my sentence (including parole) in order to register to vote or to vote?
If your name still appears on the database as an incarcerated person, the voting official may ask you for proof that you have completed your sentence, including any parole. It's a good idea to bring your sentence or parole discharge document with you when you register to vote.

What if I was convicted of a crime in another state?
Election law varies from state to state, and your right to vote is determined by the state in which you live. If you are a resident of Colorado and you have completed your sentence, including parole, you can vote.

If I was convicted of a federal crime, do I have the right to vote in a federal election?
It does not matter if you were convicted in a state or federal court. Once you are eligible to vote in Colorado, you are eligible to vote in both state and federal elections.

Do I have to pay off all of my restitution before I can vote?
No. Payment of restitution is not a condition of voting eligibility.

Do I have the right to vote if I am currently on probation?
Yes. If you are on probation for either a misdemeanor or felony you may register to vote and cast your vote in any election.

Do I have the right to vote if I am on bond and the criminal case is pending?
Yes. You are eligible to vote if you are on bond as long as you are not convicted and serving a sentence in jail or prison for a felony at the time of the election.

Do I have the right to vote if I am in jail?
If you are serving a misdemeanor sentence in jail, you have the right to register to vote and vote in any election. This is true if on the date of the election you are in jail as a pretrial detainee and have not yet been convicted.

In order to vote, you will need to contact the clerk and recorder in the county of your legal residence and ask for a Colorado--Combination Voter Registration and Mail-in Ballot Application. (You can do this on your own or you may be able to get the form through jail personnel. If you are a pretrial detainee, an administrator in the jail where you are detained will also have to certify your eligibility.)

If you are not registered to vote, you will need to register before July 14, 2008, to vote in the primary election and October 6, 2008, to vote in the general election.

CCJRC has also been working on an educational campaign titled CAN I VOTE FROM JAIL? to help people incarcerated in jail, jail personnel, and election personnel understand who is eligible to vote while incarcerated in jail.

First, it is important to understand who is eligible to vote from jail in Colorado. This group includes people who are currently being held as pretrial detainees and people who are currently serving a sentence for a misdemeanor sentence only.

Second, people who believe they are eligible to vote from jail must meet the voting eligibility criteria for anyone who registers to vote. They must be 18 years of age or older at the time of the election in which they wish to vote, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Colorado for at least 30 days prior to the date of incarceration.

People who believe they are eligible to vote will need to register to vote, or re-register to vote, and request a mail-in (absentee) ballot through the Office of the Clerk and Recorder in the county of their legal residence.

It is important to remember that people who have already been convicted of a felony and have not yet completed the sentence for that felony, including parole, are NOT eligible to vote.

Contact CCJRC for more information about jail-based voting. A free brochure that explains the process in detail is available upon request.