in march, for the first time in almost 10 years, eligible voters incarcerated in cook county jail were allowed to vote in-person, rather than by mail. iillinois amended a state law banning people in jail from voting in 2005.
the ability to vote depends on having supportive jail administrators and election officials to help facilitate voter education drives. some election officials work closely with their county jails; others expect incarcerated men and women to alert election officials and staff they want to register or vote.
cook county clerk david orr said, "i believe everybody entitled to vote should be able to vote. it's a matter of human dignity and how society chooses to treat those in jail." orr is responsible for overseeing county elections.
the chicago reporter stated the cook county jail is one of just a few in the country to allow in-person voter registration and voting. the sargent shriver national center on poverty law during this past year sent volunteers to the jail every weekend to provide voter education and registration for people awaiting trial.
1,200 ballots came from cook county jail, which has a population of about 7,000 people and is 74% black. mbekeani-wiley of the shriver center said, "people that are currently detained are impacted by those same very policies that are elected officials are making critical decisions on. they should be part of that process."
in 2015, about 700,000 people were held in jails across the country. 63% of those individuals were being held pretrial - and were therefore eligible to vote. there isn't a current system to accurately track whether are not eligible voters in jail are being denied voting rights. but advocacy groups like the sentencing project suggest more attention should be focused on expanding voter access in jails.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.