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LETTERS

Statewide coalition has been fighting to ensure inmates’ voting rights

Cook County jail detainees check in before casting their votes after a polling place was opened in the facility for early voting on Oct. 17 in Chicago. It is the first time pretrial detainees in the jail will get the opportunity for early voting in a general election.
Cook County jail detainees check in before casting their votes after a polling place was opened in the facility for early voting on Oct. 17 in Chicago. It is the first time pretrial detainees in the jail will get the opportunity for early voting in a general election.Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty

De facto disenfranchisement of incarcerated eligible voters is alive and well in Massachusetts (“The real forgotten voter is sitting in jail,” Abdallah Fayyad, Opinion, Oct. 20). A statewide coalition has been fighting to redress it.

The Election Protection Behind Bars Coalition is building on years of work by volunteers across the state who have facilitated voting in jails and documented the many barriers. This year, because of COVID-19, many have reduced or no access, making all the more clear that a democracy that relies on volunteers to allow citizens in state custody to vote is not a true democracy at all.

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We have urged the Secretary of the Commonwealth to take a step forward to address de facto disenfranchisement, and he did — voters behind the wall should see fewer absentee ballot applications rejected, thanks to guidance Secretary Bill Galvin issued in response. We urged Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian to leverage his role as president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association and, at a minimum, provide sheriffs with recommendations, and he has declined.

It is clear that the solution must be legislative. Our state needs a system in place to ensure that incarcerated people who maintain the right to vote on paper may exercise it in practice. We hope to have the support of our elected officials in this fight next session.

Kristina Mensik

Assistant director

Common Cause Massachusetts

Boston