By Mihajla Milovanovic
BOSTON, MASS – Massachusetts has joined other states in giving voting rights to those incarcerated, as Gov. Charlie Baker signed a new act into law here, called “VOTES,” which allows thousands of incarcerated people within the state the right to vote.
This act will create major change within the criminal justice system making the system, something that advocates worked to achieve, according to the Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, Amy Fettig, who said, “Thanks to their efforts, Massachusetts communities will be safer, more just and more equitable.”
Fettig explained that, in the past, incarcerated individuals had difficulty voting because Massachusetts failed to include a statewide system that allowed prisons to provide ballots to those that were eligible to vote. Including the missing ballots, officials did not have access to those eligible to vote which made them reject ballot applications they received.
With the VOTES Act, issues are resolved by creating a statewide mail-in and absentee voting for incarcerated voters. Facilities will also provide information and materials in order to educate and fully give individuals their voting rights.
The act has brought the “Democracy Behind Bars coalition” to help with this as well.
The initiation of this act sprouted from many other states also working towards this goal. In addition to Mass. Gov. Baker, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also restored voting rights to up to 3,496 incarcerated people.
According to The Sentencing Project, “Connecticut officials also recently expanded voting rights to at least 4,000 residents serving sentences on parole, and Washington policymakers adopted a measure that automatically restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated residents.”
Nicole D. Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project stated, “Across the country, more people are recognizing that our democracy is at its best when everyone exercises their right to vote—including justice-impacted individuals.”