ACLU makes inmates aware of voting rights

Local4 News at 5
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 8:47 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Voting is one of our fundamental rights and one organization is making sure it applies to all.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska is working to inform inmates about their right to vote. Adding that many don’t because they don’t know what they can and can’t do.

“ACLU Nebraska before every major election is sending voting rights information along with voting forms into the 69 jails across Nebraska,” said Mindy Rush Chipman, Legal Director of ACLU Nebraska.

Voting rights are not affected for inmates who have a misdemeanor conviction. If they are convicted of a felony they must wait two years after they have served their sentence before qualifying to vote again.

“Democracy works best when as many people participate as possible. We all know that voting is the most fundamental way that we can all participate in our democracy. Have our voice heard on important decisions about community investment, education, even things like this election,” said Rush Chipman.

As every qualified voter should be aware of the methods they can vote, the ones for inmates are limited.

“They can vote by mail,” said Tracy Overstreet, Hall County Election Commissioner. “They can also vote by agent, meaning having someone come to an election office and get a ballot for them and bring it to them at the facility that they are housed in. By mail is not the only way; but it is probably the most common way.”

The election commissioner added that inmates can use their registered address and have a ballot mailed to them at the facility they’re housed in. This issue is something that goes far beyond the ballots.

“This voting rights issue is, in our opinion, a racial justice issue,” said Rush Chipman. “Because of the over representation of people of color that are incarcerated. Particularly when we talk about black Nebraskans and indigenous Nebraskans.”

Black people are about five percent of Nebraska’s population, but are about 27 percent of Nebraska’s inmate population. ACLU is hoping that providing inmates with voting rights information can help bridge the gap in voter turnout.