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Massachusetts advocacy groups help those behind bars exercise their right to vote


BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Charlie Baker signed the VOTES Act into law this past June.

Starting next year, officials will face new standards when it comes to ensuring all eligible incarcerated individuals have access to voting materials and a ballot. The VOTES Act overhauled much of the voting process in Massachusetts, including expanding early voting and mail-in voting options.

It also seeks to provide those in custody with the ability to exercise their right to vote. Those that are detained pre-trial or for a misdemeanor offense can still cast their ballot. This past week, The Democracy Behind Bars Coalition and the African American Coalition Committee wrote to county sheriffs suggesting best practices.

Both advocacy groups want sheriffs to move faster in enacting these changes. “We urge sheriffs to create systems now in advance of the November election so they can identify problems that they’re going to encounter during implementation, the full implementation of the VOTES Act.”

The advocacy groups say incarcerated people face significant obstacles in exercising their right to vote. Oftentimes those serving behind bars do not receive essential voter material, like candidate information, election dates, and how to go about voting.

It’s estimated that there are 7,000 – 9,000 eligible voters serving time behind bars in the Commonwealth.



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