New Study Reveals Barriers To Voting For People In Jail

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Friday, October 2, 2020 - 4:10pm

A new report from the criminal justice think tank Prison Policy Initiative lays out barriers to voting for people incarcerated in county jails.

There are an estimated 746,000 people in jail in the U.S. each day and most of them have the right to vote. A majority of the people held in jails haven’t been sentenced for crimes. Others are serving time for misdemeanor offenses, but have not been convicted of felonies. Both of those groups of people are still legally able to vote in most jurisdictions. But as the Prison Policy Initiative found, they face many hurdles.

Study author Ginger Jackson-Gleich looked at jails in all 50 states and found general confusion about eligibility. She said the registration process is one of the largest barriers to voting in jail. 

"It’s difficult to comply with registration deadlines while you’re in jail. You might not have access to identification that are required in your state,” she said. “Typically the way people vote from jail is by voting absentee or by mailing a ballot, there are very few places in the United States where voting machines are made available.”

Jackson-Gleich found several states do not allow people in jails to request absentee ballots despite their eligibility. She says the way in which jail mail is handled and reviewed can delay the registration and voting process as well.