Aug. 8 (UPI) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced the launch of a voter registration drive inside the city’s jails.
The initiative, carried out by the Legal Aid Society of New York and the city’s Campaign Finance Board, will register eligible voters and facilitate direct pick-up and delivery of voter registration forms and absentee ballots. Eligible inmates had previously been able to mail in absentee ballots, but the jail mailing system is known to take substantially more time than the normal process, causing votes to be received too late.
There is no change to the current voting law in New York State. People being held in pre-trial detention and those serving time for misdemeanors have been allowed to vote. People serving time for felony convictions will not be eligible to register.
The initiative is part of DemocracyNYC, a city effort to increase voter participation.
“Voting access must be expanded and protected in our city. That applies to everyone, including people in custody,” de Blasio said in a statement. “This initiative will help more incarcerated New Yorkers participate in our democracy and have their voices heard.”
New York’s Department of Corrections Commissioner Cynthia Brann also praised the effort.
“Even though most people in our custody are here only a short time, it is our duty to help them by ensuring that they have appropriate access to the electoral process,” Brann said. “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.”
According to the New York Post, more than 50 inmates at Rikers were registered to vote on Tuesday and volunteer groups plan visits to several other jails throughout the month.