Houston Leads the Way on Inmate Voting

Voting Machines to be set up in the jail
Houston – photo from Harriscountyso.org

Harris County is looking into setting up a polling location inside of their county jail.  There is nothing in the constitution that says an individual who is incarcerated cannot vote.  This has been a punitive action that has been taken under the assumption that people in jail are bad people and shouldn’t be allowed to participate in our government.

Everyone ignores the fact that a very large percentage of people in jail have not yet been found guilty of a crime.  In fact, the only thing they are guilty of at that point is being too poor to be able to afford their bond.  This has worked to disenfranchise minorities, who are targeted more often and receive harsher punishment than white people, and the poor.

The officials in Harris County are hoping to have the polling location set up by this November but the County Clerk has doubts than can get it set up that quickly.  However, she says they will be able to set up a polling place in the jail for the 2020 presidential election.  The votes on this decision were on party lines.  In other words, for as much as Republicans talk about supporting the constitution it is really the Democrats who do support it.  Congratulations to Harris County.  Hopefully more counties will stop disenfranchising American citizens.  See the article by the HoustonPublicMedia.org.

A non-partisan study was done in Florida regarding the reinstatement of voting rights after an individual had been released from jail.  The individuals who got their voting rights back had a lower recidivism rate than ex-inmates who did not get their voting rights back.  This study does not explain why.  Were the ones who petitioned to get their rights back, by they sheer fact that they cared enough to make the effort to do so, already less likely to get into trouble again?  Or could it be that, especially after having the government lock you up and take so many of your rights away, an ex-inmate has a better understanding of his right to vote giving him a voice in his government?

Regardless, Harris County is staying true to our constitution and is working to ensure all eligible people get to exercise their right to vote.

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