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The Next Step: Inmate Voting
Just vote in the community where you committed your crime

Current Oregon law allows a defendant to reinstate voting rights once released from incarceration. Governor Kate Brown released 700 inmates early “to slow the spread of COVID-19,” just in time for the election. She is also moving forward to close three prisons to save an estimated $44 million. They are minimum security facilities housing 749 inmates out of 13,000. It’s undetermined how many will be released.

As we have witnessed this past summer, Oregon’s prosecution guidelines have become so lax that only the gravest of criminals serve time. Of those incarcerated, there are nine times the number of crimes against a person verses those involving property. Nearly half will be released with less than a two-year sentence, before the next general election with voting rights restored.

So why are Senator Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), Representative Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), and Representative Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas), chief sponsors, introducing HB 2366 to allow persons convicted of felony, serving life sentences, the right to vote? Two states, Maine and Vermont, allow all prisoners to vote. Some prisoners, depending on their conviction, are allowed to vote in Mississippi, Alabama, and Alaska, and there are other concessions in other states, such as voting by parolees. States with experience have noted that very few inmates exercise their right to vote, and inmates say it can be dangerous to discuss politics. Distrust of politicians and no interest are the reasons reported by volunteers that inmates don’t vote. Putting money into a program when the general fund is $1.1 billion short that hasn’t been successful in any other state is questionable.



A once incarcerated person may not hold a public office or an office of a political party or hold a position of private trust or act as a juror, and HB 2366 removes the right to vote. It allows an incarcerated person, even the 950 with life sentences that will never be a productive citizen, to register to vote and vote in elections while incarcerated. If this bill had any credibility, it would require an incarcerated person to take a civics class worth 3 college credits to earn their right to vote and open up a format for discussion on their future on the outside. The reason most are incarcerated is they seem to lack civic knowledge and responsibility.

Oregon does not check voter registrations for viable addresses. Registration guidelines allows registration with any address, even though the voter registration card calls for the registrant’s current address. HB 2366 specifies that a person’s residence is where a person resided prior to incarceration.

“A person who has left the place of the person’s residence as part of the person’s confinement in a jail, prison or correctional facility, including a local correctional facility as defined in ORS 169.005 or a youth correction facility as defined in ORS 420.005, who has not established another residence for voter registration purposes, and who does not have a place in which habitation is fixed, may not be considered to have changed or lost residence. The person may register at the address of the place the person’s residence was located before the person left.”

Oregon’s inactive voter purge was expanded from 5 to 10 years by Secretary of State Richardson, and there is no systematic purge of other voter recorders for people moving in and out of the state. According to Janice Dysinger of Oregonians For Fair Elections. "Any law that allows a voter to register at an address where they do not live will weaken the authenticity of the electorate for a district. It creates 'phantom voters'. This practice creates an opportunity for cancelling out the voice of the true residents of the district. Elected Officials are to represent the district's voice. If the district is made up of fake voters it is corrupted. Every voter in a district needs to be an authentic voter living in that district.”

We all want fair elections and just as important we need educated voters to hone a future befitting Oregonians.

--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-01-19 19:46:59Last Update: 2021-01-19 20:49:10

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