Jail-Based Voting Reform
In February 2021, Senator Adam Hinds, Representative Liz Miranda, and Representative Chynah Tyler introduced "An Act to Protect the Voting Rights of Eligible Incarcerated People" (H.836 and S.474). This reform would ease and expand access to voting for those incarcerated pre-trial or on a non-felony conviction by mandating that sheriffs provide them with critical information, like absentee ballot request forms and voter registration forms. Even though these incarcerated persons are all eligible to vote right now, sheriffs routinely prevent them from receiving this information, suppressing their votes in a de-facto manner. Additionally, this reform would place a voting site within a prison of a county with more than 800,000 residents, with the voting site serving the municipality most represented in the prison. Finally, the reform would benefit those incarcerated on felony convictions too, as it would ensure that sheriffs provide them with materials like a voter registration form when they re-enter society.
Ensuring the vote
As many as 10,000 individuals are incarcerated and eligible to vote in Massachusetts. However, they are rarely provided the information necessary for them to actually vote, such as an absentee ballot application. This reform would curb the current state of de-facto disenfranchisement by mandating that sheriffs provide eligible incarcerated voters the information they need to cast their ballot.
A more accessible, inclusive process
This reform would implement a number of measures that would instantly make voting more accessible and inclusive for incarcerated voters. Sheriffs would have to provide eligible incarcerated persons ballot applications, requested ballots, a private place to vote, and more. Additionally, each prison would have a drop box for eligible inmates to deposit ballots. Furthermore, the reform would allow community leaders and advocacy organizations to work inside prisons and help educate voters around voting.
Getting re-entry right
Even though convicted felons lose the right to vote when they are incarcerated, they are eligible to vote again the moment their sentence terminates. This reform would mandate that sheriffs must aid returning citizens by providing them a voter registration form and assisting them in filling out said form if the citizen so chooses. This would ensure that those who have been locked out of the electoral process may be able to smoothly transition back into it.