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Although an estimated 6.1 million Americans are disenfranchised due to their involvement with the criminal justice system, most individuals incarcerated in jails ARE in FACT eligible to vote. Additionally, New York State authorizes individuals to vote if they are on probation, have completed their sentence, received a Certificate of Good Standing, or have a pardon through Executive Order 181.
The NYC DOC takes its duty of providing access to voting for those in its custody very seriously and has made increased civic engagement a priority over the past 4 years. It has a deep understanding of the state's eligibility laws and pursues its civic engagement efforts accordingly.
How do people in custody exercise their right to vote?
The Department’s Civic Engagement Coordinator and Programs Division facilitate voting in our facilities in three phases:
1. Distribute and make available all necessary voter registration and absentee ballot forms in all available languages.
2. Provide non-partisan voter education and in-person assistance for individuals to understand and complete the required forms.
3. Leverage partnership with the Board of Elections to ensure in-person drop-offs, pick-ups, and timely delivery of all election mail on behalf of people in custody at no charge to the individual.
How do people in custody learn about elections?
How does the Department accomplish this with a transient population?
These mechanisms are more difficult to accomplish in a jail setting than in prison as people in jail move in and out more frequently. However, the Department does everything in its power to start and complete the process for everyone in custody and set them up with a path for future civic engagement upon release.
What is the Department doing for the 2021 Election during COVID-19?
In the wake of COVID-19, the Department had to suspend many of its volunteer in-person voter facilitation efforts. We distribute voting instruction packets to all individuals in custody that include voting instructions, eligibility criteria, and the requisite voter forms. Department staff conduct in-person voter assistance and are available to respond to any voting related questions. The Department looks forward to resuming its full in-person civic engagement operations and welcoming back civic engagement volunteers as soon as it is safe to do so.