Arizona Officials Lack Transparency in Jail Voting Procedures

Issues
Image
An out of focus bed seen through the bars of a jail cell

Campaign Legal Center (CLC), as part of the Arizona Coalition to End Jail Based Disenfranchisement, has sent a total of 90 records requests to understand how many people in Arizona jails are being denied their constitutional right to vote across the state.

As of Jan. 28, 2021, 49 requests remain unanswered. Arizona is shielding the public from the full scope of its practice of disenfranchising people in the criminal justice system, a practice that hurts low-income people and people of color the most.

Apache County is the only county that did not respond at all, violating Arizona public record law. They must explain the procedures that its recorder and sheriff follow to ensure that they are protecting the right of all citizens to vote.

CLC and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona filed a lawsuit seeking transparency about the extent to which county officials in Apache County, Arizona denied pretrial detainees and individuals serving misdemeanor sentences the right to vote in the 2020 elections.

Each night, more than 14,000 people are detained in county jails across Arizona. An estimated 60%, or 8,400, of those people are eligible to vote. People convicted of felonies lose their right to vote, but those who are held in pretrial detention or are serving misdemeanor sentences retain their voting eligibility.

According to a report released by the coalition in July 2020, only seven incarcerated voters cast a ballot in Arizona’s March presidential primary out of an estimated 2,700 eligible incarcerated voters.

Citizens who are eligible to vote should never be denied their most fundamental right. Transparency is urgently needed to conduct public oversight so that Arizona can begin fixing its broken system.

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter