Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City is launching an initiative aimed at improving the ease and efficiency of voting for those incarcerated.
The program will enable inmates to register to vote directly from prison. The prison will also begin collecting filled-out absentee ballots and mail them on the inmate’s behalf, reported The Wall Street Journal. Currently, the process demands prisoners mail ballots and voter registration forms through the general postal service, which allows for possible delays due to stringent security measures.
“What we found over the years is there really wasn’t any effort to help [prison detainees] vote — no real absentee ballot efforts or registration efforts … from now on we’re going to change that,” de Blasio said during his weekly presentation for NY1’s Inside City Hall. “There will be ongoing voting registration on Rikers Island and in the whole correction system. There will be efforts to give absentee ballots to inmates for the districts they come from and a real effort to encourage voting.” (RELATED: Bill De Blasio Attacks The Free Press)
New York state outlaws inmates incarcerated on felony convictions or on parole from the ability to vote, according to Politico. The Department of Corrections is unsure how many inmates will be impacted by the program, but estimates find around 6,000 individuals at Rikers Island are eligible to register. The majority of detainees in the Bronx prison are unable to afford bail and are awaiting their trial.
“Reminding the incarcerated that their vote matters is a powerful way of reinforcing their ties to our community and is just as important as the many job training and re-entry programs we offer every day,” Cynthia Brann, Commissioner for the Department of Correction, told the Wall Street Journal.
New York City Hall has not provided an estimation for the cost of the program.
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