Voter Registration Drive Targets Ex-Offenders

Oct 1, 2012

New Haven is hosting voter registration drives around the city targeted especially at ex-offenders. Many people with criminal records mistakenly think they can’t vote in Connecticut.

"Are you registered?"

"Well, you all just convinced me. Now I want to register."  

Tywain Harris was recently released from prison after serving three years for selling drugs.  Today he’s headed to a job interview. Along the way, for the first time, he’s registered to vote.

"Well, you have an input on a lot of things. And you could stop complaining and crying at the T.V. ‘cause this politician not doing this, and this politician... Just go out and vote and you can change some things."

A  report released earlier this year by the Sentencing Project finds that about 1 in every 40 adults in the U.S. can’t vote because of a current or previous felony conviction. 

Voting rights for ex-cons vary dramatically state by state. Maine and Vermont, for example, have no voting restrictions. But in states like Florida, Alabama and Virginia, more than 7% of the adult population can’t vote because they’ve been convicted of felony-level crimes.  

Connecticut residents lose the right to vote if they’re serving time in prison, on parole, or convicted of election fraud.  

Althea Marshall Brooks is coordinator for the New Haven Prison Reentry Initiative. She says many people on probation don’t realize that here they’re eligible to vote.

"We want ex-offenders or reentrants to successfully reintegrate into the community and one of the ways to actually be a part of community is to have a voice in it. To be one who’s a part of selecting leadership."

There will be voter registration drives at probation offices and at agencies working with ex-offenders throughout New Haven in the coming weeks.