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Monday, October 22, 2012

Ross Mirkarimi Gets Prisoners to Vote

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 7:55 AM

We got a little glimpse of what Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has been doing now that he's back on the job: registering inmates to vote.

And why shouldn't he want this, considering it was San Francisco prisoners who vociferously backed the embattled sheriff during his domestic violence drama that nearly cost him his job?

According to the Sheriff's Department, it has already registered some 400 inmates as of Friday, noting this is the first step to reintegrating this group back into society. 

See also: S.F. Inmates Say That Bruise Ross Mirkarimi Gave His Wife Is No Misdemeanor

The Sheriff's Department Prisoner Legal Services program and the Department of Elections has made San Francisco the leader in inmate voter registration in California, having registered thousands in the last five elections, Mirkarimi says.

"We are committed to breaking down the barriers to anyone who wants to exercise their right to vote," Mirkarimi said in a statement. "We believe that facilitating a person's right to vote engenders a sense of responsibility and inclusion."

Strangely enough, prisoners just might have accounted for the highest voter tunrout of any group during the last election, with 90 percent of registered voters showing up to the polls in Nov. 2011, according to the sheriff.

Mirkarimi isn't the only one fighting for prisoners' voting rights. In May the ACLU filed a case with the California Supreme Court arguing that prisoners sentenced under realignment should have the right to vote.

The law says that offenders in state prison and on parole are allowed to vote, but realignment mandates the transfer of some prisoners out of state prison and into county jails to ease overcrowding.

However, in July, the court chose not to hear the case.

"Reintegration can't just be about punishment," Scott McDonald, Santa Cruz County's chief probation officer, said in a statement on the ACLU's website. "It's also about taking responsibility and participating fully in the community. Voting encourages literacy and positive civic engagement."

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Coburn Palmer


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