The forgotten voting block: Those in jail or on probation

This election season started on January 21, 2013 directly following the second inauguration of the 44th President Barak Obama. No one was fooled by the retired Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s bashful claims of having no thoughts about the 2016 presidential election. Well no one who follows politics and the Clintons.

It seemed like there was a never ending 2015 primary season with 17 Republican candidates and the bulldog gripping Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) who was unwilling to remove his name from the ballot until “he made a difference”. But as they say “all good things must come to an end.” The fun of the primary season ended with the notorious 2016 Presidential Platform of Presidential candidates for the Republican and Democratic Parties – Donald J. Trump and Hilary Clinton. And sometimes I feel like they are following the rules in the song “10 Crack Commandments” by the Notorious BIG. But that’s for another blog post.

*NOTE – many will tell you that I predicted Donald Trump would win his party’s candidacy. It was inevitable. I’m just angry with myself for not blogging during that time.

There’s a saying that hustlers use, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game!” I think this election season has taught the world and in particular the American voter that they in deed hate the game being played every day in the good ole US of A.

The American voter is in a conundrum in the 2016 Presidential election. But there are several other important elections this campaign season. There are at least six Senate and House campaigns that should be watched and will be decided on by the smallest of numbers. Each vote this 2016 election season will count and one block of voters who has not been engaged are those persons serving time in the US jail system.

There are differences between serving time in prison and in jail as well as parole and probation.  Those persons not serving time in state prison or on parole can register and cast a vote in their home county. Each state is different but most states follow this standard.

As a member of League of Women Voters, I have assisted with registering and providing absentee ballots to those in jail. I am aware of this being done around the country by other chapters. In California the ACLU represented the LWV chapter with the 2006 election and won a case that gave voting rights to 100,000 people in county jails or on probation. In February 2016 Think Progress did a story titled, How to Register Voters in a South Carolina Jail, based on Brenda Williams a retired medical professional who has dedicated her life to registering people in her county to vote. Her county is Sumter County, South Carolina and persons behind bars with civil convictions can register and cast a vote in every election. So she goes to the jail and registers the inmates, provides them with absentee ballots and then follows up weeks later collecting those ballots so that their voices count.

Here are the numbers according to the Sentencing Project’s Facts – State-by-State page using the tab titled Detailed State Data. The US in 2014 had 2,240,386 people incarcerated and 300 out of each 100,000 were in jails. If you use this tool you can enter your state and find out the number of persons in jail in your state. The US probation population for the same year was 3, 910,692. You can also find out the number of people on probation in your state using the same tool. In the state I was raised in, New Jersey, there are 220 out of 100,000 persons in NJ Jails (15,235).

The community of Juveniles who have touched the system also can not be forgotten as a voting block. According to the Sentencing project in 2013 there were 54, 148 juveniles in the system. In NJ in 2013 there were 888 in the system. Juveniles coming out of the system, usually have the right to vote once they have reached the voting age of 18, yet many are unaware of this fact. This is the part of Voter Education that must be done along with voter registration in our communities. Knowledge is a powerful tool.

In this 2016 election season it is imperative that we reach out to every voting group and acquire their ballot. We must provide communities with the tools that will encourage and include ALL who are eligible to send in a ballot or cast a vote to do so! I hope you will go to your local jail system and register people to vote. Time is of the essence as many states absentee ballot deadlines are soon upon us! To find out more information about the dates in your state go to the US Election Assistance Commission (EAC). 

*Should you embark in this work please let me know! Thanks!

In Solidarity,


Resources: Peace and Freedom Party – In Jail? You Can Vote by Bob Evans







About wiyatt

Hi I am Dara born in Spain, raised in Newark, NJ and now enjoying living a dream in Washington, DC. I am zealous about Social Equity and Justice. I am an Advocate for Disability Rights. I am a Sister & Friend to many! Years of studying, living and changing policy brought me to this place. Thank you for reading my blog! Follow me on Twitter: @NJDC07 and Insta Gram NJDC07 The quote above is from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in a speech he gave here in Washington, DC in 1955. It is now carved into one of the many stones at his memorial on the National Mall.
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