DC Jail helps inmates vote, a rarity nationwide

Associated Press Modified: November 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm •  Published: November 5, 2012
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Maine and Vermont, the only two states where prisoners never lose the ability to vote, also help inmates cast absentee ballots.

"For the guys that are incarcerated having any voice is hugely important," said Wilhelmina Picard, the director of corrections education in Vermont who also oversees voting.

The District of Columbia, meanwhile, has been making an effort to help prisoners vote for the last several years. This year, 88 men voted at the D.C. Jail. That's a fraction of the facility's some 1,700 inmates and a tiny number when compared with the approximately 267,000 residents who cast ballots in the last presidential election.

But, like many voters, inmates still had to wait in line on the first day of voting Oct. 24.

On the third floor, more than a dozen men stood along a corridor, flipping through paper voter guides also sent to residents. They sat down to vote in three available chairs. Pat-down searches went on periodically in the background. Inmates working kitchen jobs rolled carts by with boxes of lunch. Every once and a while someone shouted to get a guard's attention and to have a sliding door unlocked.

As prisoners completed their ballots, poll workers made sure they placed them in a series of two envelopes used for absentee voters, signing over the flap on the second one.

When they finished, poll watcher Tyrone Parker offered an oval "I Voted" sticker.

"You did good, man," Parker said. "I'm proud of you."

___

Follow Jessica Gresko at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

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