Proposed Texas Bill Would Let Inmates Vote From Jail

Barbara Schwarz
January 11, 2019 - 6:21 am
Prison, Jail

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Houston Democrat Harold Dutton hopes the fourth time is the charm.  He has filed a measure to allow people in jail to vote from jail, a bill he's filed three times in the past without success. 

Dutton says he noticed a precinct in his district with seven thousand eligible voters. They were all in the Harris County lockup.  That's when he first filed the bill in 2013. "And I thought if they're registered to vote, how can we prevent them from voting since they are incarcerated and that's the only thing preventing them."

Dutton then spoke to the sheriff, who told him the turnover rate was so high that the inmates couldn't vote by mail.  "So I said why don't we just create this as a voting precinct.  Those who are eligible to vote, vote on the day of the election.  And he said he thinks that's a good idea.  He jokingly said to me 'I guess I'll have to start serving better meals on election day.'"

Many in jail are awaiting trial and some others are serving time for misdemeanors.   In fact Missouri City Democrat Ron Reynolds served four months in jail on misdemeanor charges of illegally soliciting clients for his personal injury law practice and won re-election while incarcerated.  He was released in time to go to Austin for the current legislative session. 

Dutton says preventing these people from voting violates their rights.  "And I think an inmates decided to challenge that on the basis of the law, I just have a sneaking suspicion that the court would side with the inmate."

Asked why he thinks the bill will pass this session, he said "I think we're smarter. I hope we are."

Only people convicted of felonies cannot vote in Texas.