San Francisco

San Francisco Prisoners Voting: Registration Among Inmates Reaches Record High


When he's not fighting to remain in control over all aspects of his department or serving as point of contention in local elections, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has been making good on his promise to bring a progressive vision to the city's Sheriff's Department.

At at time when prisoners around the country are being stripped of their right to vote, Mirkarimi has gone to great lengths to increase voter registration among inmates in the city's jails.

Mirkarimi told KPFA that many of the inmates in San Francisco's county jails are eager to exercise their right to vote and a significant portion of the largely Latino and African American individuals who signed as part of this initiative are registering for the first time in their lives.

Over 400 San Francisco prisoners have been registered to vote in Tuesday's election. "I am proud to say that SF leads the rest of California in registering more inmates than any other county in the state," said Mirkarimi.

He added that assisting inmates to participate in the democratic process is an important part of their rehabilitation and reentry back into society.

SF Weekly notes that inmates in San Francisco likely had the highest turnout rate of any group in the 2011 election--approximately 90 percent.

Californians incarcerated for felonies in state prison, or serving felony sentences in county jail under realignment, are ineligible to vote, as are those currently on parole for felonies. Inmates serving time in county jails for crimes other than felonies are eligible to vote and the ACLU has filed a suit against the state arguing that felons in county jails should be have the right to vote.

Around the country, 5.85 million Americans have lost their right to vote due to their having been convicted of a felony, including seven percent of all African Americans.

Correction: The article originally states that everyone currently serving time for a felony conviction was ineligible to vote.

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