Incarcerated Voting

Inspired by this thread: Ever know anyone you thought shouldn't be allowed to vote?

In that thread, the idea of restoring voting rights to felons was discussed (which is just fine), but also the idea of allowing the currently incarcerated to vote. This raised an interesting question to me as someone who lives in a rural area with several prisons. How would this impact local elections? My understanding is that the prison is “home” to those who are incarcerated there. In my county, incarcerated persons make up a little less than 20% of the entire county’s population. Do they receive a special ballot with only federal and state offices on it? Something else? It doesn’t seem like it would be “right” to allow them to have such a significant impact on local elections when they aren’t really impacted by the outcome of those elections.

Posting in IMHO because I don’t think this is a Great Debate (yet); I’m actually wondering how this is handled in places where it is done, or (failing that) ideas on how it should be handled.

In Australia it’s not only possible to vote while incarcerated (for relatively short sentences), it’s compulsory where not prohibited. Rules depend on the state. Generally, your vote counts where you last lived before you were banged up.

There is no issue here. Give them ballots. Use machines. And they are certainly impacted by the elections as much as anyone else who lives in their jurisdiction. Let them go home if you think they should be voting somewhere else. There is no reason to deny the citizenship of people who are convicted of crimes, it is absolutely counter to the concept of democracy.

I would think that this is the very type of thing that absentee ballots would address. Our military guys vote based on their “home” jurisdiction, even if they’re in Germany or Korea. I see no reason why we shouldn’t do the same for the incarcerated.

Where do lifers live? What is the home town of someone who will be in prison for 5 years or more? Why should they keep voting in some place they used to live and may never live in again?

Just about every scheme I’ve seen that allows the incarcerated to vote rules out those convicted of certain crimes, such as murder, possibly rape, and by extension, perhaps terrorism/treason. Since most “lifers” are going to fall into those categories (excluding those incarcerated for Third Strike* offenses), I think they’d be automatically excluded and thus, this wouldn’t be an issue.

*While we’re righting the wrongs of the criminal justice system, we need to get rid of this Third Strike nonsense as well.

I’m having a hard time thinking of anyone who could possibly be more impacted by the outcome of those elections. Every aspect of their lives is tightly and directly controlled by the government.

Why can’t they vote? They are in jail as a result of the government, why don’t they have the same say in how that government is run that you do? It’s a pretty oil system that puts people away and then takes away their right to influence that system.

It would be an interesting phenomenon, indeed, seeing local officials having to campaign on the basis of trying to win prisoner’s votes, in small towns where prisoners comprise 20% of the electorate.

But yes, it seems the only practical way to make it work. Letting people vote absentee while in prison (i…e, “I am in prison in Tennessee, but before arrest I was living in Arizona and want to vote absentee to Arizona”) sounds like a real logistical headache.

I used to favor letting incarcerated prisoners vote, but I’ve seen rather strong arguments about how hard it is to guarantee their right to do so unencumbered by pressure put on them by their jailors. So now I’m undecided on the issue.

I still feel strongly that those who have been released from prison should have the right to vote, and I think the states that prevent it are just trying to disenfranchise minorities. What if they were imprisoned for political reasons, (or politically-adjacent reasons) like possessing pot? Shouldn’t they be able to vote against the criminalization of pot in the future?

And if such a large fraction of the population has been incarcerated that their votes really matter, then we have a more serious problem on our hands. To the extent that our laws encourage the continuation of a police state, our laws are bad and should change.

Why is this such a big problem? Maintaining a secret ballot is simple enough. I’m sure there could be pressure to get a certain result total but that should be easy enough to expose. I’m sure in prison like that the level of corruption extends much further and the prisoners need their right to vote more than ever,

How is it any more of a logistical headache than allowing military members to vote from overseas?

ISTM the rule could just be that there have to be election officials on hand to execute this. Send a few such officials to the prison on Election Day, have them be the ones to set up the voting booth, ballots, etc. Sure, the jailers could intimidate or pressure as much as they like, but ultimately, when the inmate steps into that booth, it’s just him and the secret ballot, no one else.

I don’t have an issue with incarcerated people voting, but I think consideration needs to be given to where they “live.” I bet some counties in the US have a very significant prison population and I think most people agree that it doesn’t make sense for that population to have a large influence on county elections. I think their most recent permanent address prior to incarceration should be used.

In the county where I live, depending on the time of year (including election day), the population is at least 30-40 percent college students. Arguments have been made here that college students shouldn’t be allowed to vote in county elections since they’ll likely depart within four years. I don’t think anyone has taken these arguments seriously.

I think it could be argued that a person who depends on the government for literally everything. Food, heath care, living conditions, treatment by their ‘landlords’…every single aspect of their life is managed/dictated by the government…those people are probably far more impacted by the outcome of elections than you or I.
Shouldn’t they get a say in some of their decisions.
I get it, they did something wrong and they’re in jail because of it (which is a separate debate), but should they have the right to decide, for example, that Nutraloaf isn’t edible and they need real food?

That’s the same argument for Americans living outside the U.S. We can only vote for federal offices and vote according to the last address in the U.S. It’s very unlikely that if I would move back to my last address. We sold the house, and the only reason to live there was because that’s where our jobs were.

And I thought college students voted absentee for their place of residence, which is also where they are counted for the census. But it’s been a few years since I was in college.

College students usually do so because they don’t bother updating their registration. But I don’t think there are rules about this.

I registered to vote at my college address when I went to college. My reasoning was: I lived there. Sure, I went back to my parents’ home for a few months each summer, but that’s not where my life was.

I also agree that felons should be able to vote, and either voting absentee at their last address or locally is fine.

In prison, most outgoing mail is subject to inspection, which means even a request for a ballot (much less a ballot itself) may be opened, examined, and recorded by the prison staff. Legal mail, also theoretically exempt from inspection, is often opened and examined, and staff are not generally disciplined for it, so why do you think a secret ballot would be “simple” to maintain? (Let’s not even mention the ridiculous inefficiency of many prison mailrooms. I know of one facility where the facility general order says that mail will be delivered within 24 hours of receipt, but the current turnaround is about a week for outgoing mail and three weeks for incoming. Nobody in the prison administration cares.)

A lot of people complain about college students not voting absentee in their former location, they don’t like the idea that students can vote where they live at college. It’s always just an attempt to disenfranchise people on the “you’re not from around here” basis.

Because there are laws and if a secret ballot is required then the prison won’t be allowed to look at it. What do you think will happen, escapes planned in cooperation with election officials who see the ballots?