Naomi did a great job on this piece about what CCJRC is doing to try and help people vote. Thanks go out to Colorado Independent and Naomi.
When it comes to voting rights, Colorado's prisoners are a sticky case study. Some can vote and some can't. But most of them don't have an inkling that they are eligible to exercise that right. Enter the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. The Denver-based prisoner advocacy group has been working furiously to let Colorado's incarcerated population know who is allowed at the ballot box. But because of state's complex regulations, that effort isn't as simple as it seems.
Voting rights for prisoners are determined on a state-by-state basis. Some, like Vermont or Maine, allow incarcerated felons to cast their votes. In Colorado, however, felons are barred from voting until they have completed their sentence and parole; that law has been on the books since 1876. Those on probation — a sentence offered as an alternative to prison where a person is free, but supervised in the community — can vote. And so can some people in jail: those awaiting trial and those serving a misdemeanor sentence.
While CCJRC has sponsored voter information drives in the past for all kinds of inmates, this year the group will focus on the jail population. In the next several weeks, the organization will distribute "Can I Vote From Jail?" brochures to the Denver County Jail and the city's Clerk and Recorder. CCJRC re-entry coordinator Carol Peeples, who is spearheading the effort, says that state agencies make no effort to let detainees know if they can vote.
"There is no education process with the Department of Corrections or with the Secretary of State," she says. "It's up to people to learn on their own."
Peeples first became involved with inmate voter advocacy when she taught a university course at a Buena Vista prison and happened to ask the inmates whether they were aware that they could vote once they left prison. The class remained largely silent, and Peeples realized that she had to act. In 2003 she organized a voter information campaign called the Colorado Voting Project to let ex-felons know their rights.
"There is so much misinformation," she says. "One guy was told by a federal probation officer that if he voted he would go to jail. So he didn't vote for 10 years."Colorado Independent