Kyle Giddings on Colorado’s move to become the first state to require in-person voting in jails

February 21, 2024

“Colorado could become the first state to require county jails to set up in-person voting stations for incarcerated voters under a Democratic-backed bill that has sparked criticism that it would pose financial and logistical hurdles to already-strapped sheriff’s offices.

“Advocates of Senate Bill 72 say placing polling stations inside jails would reduce barriers to a fundamental right for those eligible to vote. Opponents say the current system is working and the new law would be an ‘unfunded mandate’ that would cause disruptions.

“In Colorado, incarcerated people awaiting trial or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor conviction are eligible to vote.

“If passed, it could impact nearly 6,000 people who are confined waiting for a trial on any given Election Day in Colorado’s jails. …

It’s important that those who are closest to the problem have an opinion and a voice in solutions …

“In Denver, where in-person voting inside detention centers has been provided since 2020, election data showed turnout was higher among inmates than among the general population in some races.

“For the municipal runoff race in Denver in June, for instance, voter turnout inside the Denver County jail and downtown detention center was 58.7%, compared with the 36.8% turnout rate from the general public, said Kyle Giddings [Leading with Conviction™ 2024], civic engagement coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

“In the November 2023 election, voter turnout from inside the Denver jail was 43%, while the general population turnout was 36.5%.

“‘It’s important that those who are closest to the problem have an opinion and a voice in solutions related to criminal justice issues that end up on the ballot,’ said Giddings, who helps run elections in Denver’s detention centers and was previously incarcerated.

“Improving access to voting inside jails also helps people become invested in their communities in a meaningful way when they are released, he said.

“‘Helping individuals have a voice in the school board race meant a lot to individuals who had kids in the (Denver Public Schools) system and being able to vote on the people that were going to make decisions on their kids’ education,’ he said.

“On election days, Giddings said in-person voting stations are set up in the jail’s community room. He and other election judges go from pod to pod asking who wants to vote, help register them and check their eligibility.”

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