Although jail detainees are kept behind bars, City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) says their votes should not be.
Wills introduced a bill at last week’s Council meeting outlining a process for the city Department of Correction to administer absentee ballot applications ahead of elections, distribute them to eligible voters and then return their ballots to the city Board of Elections.
In New York, inmates convicted of misdemeanors and those awaiting judicial rulings on felony charges are eligible to vote. Close to 81 percent of those in the state prison system are detainees who have been charged but not convicted of crimes, and are therefore eligible to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice policy institute, at New York University’s School of Law.
“I encounter more constituents than I would like ... that if they were in Rikers or another jail, they didn’t know they could vote. I have had people come up to me and tell me their voter record is messed up and they were never locked up or they had a misdemeanor conviction,” Wills said.
Neither the BOE nor DOC responded to requests for comment on the bill and how voting currently works in city jails.