Voting rights effort targets those held in jails across US

While many people serving time for felony convictions lose their right to vote, detainees awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences retain their voting rights, but face barriers to exercising it in many parts of the United States. Advocates are now working with jail officials in Cook County, Illinois; Denver; Harris County, Texas; Los Angeles County; and the District of Columbia to improve voting access. Expanding jailhouse voting is a recent step in an effort to combine voting rights with criminal justice changes. Voting rights for pretrial detainees and inmates serving sentences for misdemeanors were upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court decision O’Brien v. Skinner, a 1974 case from New York. But, despite that ruling, voting rights advocates say a “de facto disenfranchisement” exists because of mistakes over eligibility and the difficulties that detainees and prisoners face in registering or voting.

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