National Voting Rights Campaign

GOALS

1) To organize in our communities to build long-term political power, to address civil rights violations of people who have been in prison or have conviction histories.
2) To provide political education to the community, regarding who has the right to vote in each state, what those rights mean (eligibility for jury duty, types of elections).
3) To assist formerly-incarcerated people and our families in registering to vote.
4) To educate the community regarding the issues and initiatives on their respective ballots, and the physical logistics of voting and the ballot.
5) To build coalitions among different sectors of the community to support future efforts to extend the right to vote to people in county jails and state prisons.
6) To increase civic engagement among formerly-incarcerated and convicted people and our families, including people in prison or jails where they are eligible.

The FICPM adopted a national commitment to register a million new voters from among people with prior convictions or a history including incarceration. We may or may not be able accomplish this specific number of registrations. However, we still hope to keep track of how many people we register during this national campaign.

IMPORTANT STEPS

Train all campaign workers and volunteers about what makes a person eligible to vote in your state, as well as any restrictions on who may assist people in registering. In some states, people on parole are prohibited from assisting in voter registration. Specifically investigate whether people in county jails waiting for trial are allowed to vote, and whether local sheriffs allow prisoners to register and vote. If people in county jails are eligible to vote, investigate how sheriffs are or are not publicizing how county jail prisoners can access these rights.

Because we are accumulating numbers of new voters nation-wide, keeping track of how many people we register is important. Also, we should keep track of the numbers of people we train to assist in voter registration, and the number of people who attend any voter education forums, or ballot trainings.

Develop a time-sensitive calendar and work plan for your own area, to guarantee compliance with local registration and application deadlines.

Develop voter education materials that clearly explain who is eligible to vote and that highlight local issues important to formerly-incarcerated and convicted people.

Create a uniform method for assisting people in registering to vote that will also allow us to capture their contact information for future involvement in our campaigns. In most states, it is illegal to copy voter registration forms before sending them into the Secretary of State. Organizers should provide a separate sign-in list next to the voter registration form. We should also distribute information about next meeting times and ways to be involved in our local organizations.

Early in the campaign, reach out to other organizations, explaining the goals of our campaign to increase civic engagement on the part of formerly-incarcerated people and our families. Educate these organizations about voting laws in your state, and about how to assist voters in the registration process, including the importance of capturing numbers of people registered for our records. Possible allies and potential collaborations include:

  • Religious institutions – Mosques, churches, student religious centers, temples, synagogues may have their own civic engagement programs with which to join forces.
  • Civil rights organizations – Chapters of the ACLU, NAACP, Urban League, LULAC, League of Women Voters, and other civil rights and voting rights organizations may have resources to share, and could benefit from education and collaboration opportunities.

Create a database of organizations that are collaborating in our effort to reach out and mobilize these new voters. Keep track of the numbers of people these organizations assist in registering; ask ally organizations to use a uniform method of registration and capturing contact information.

Create a schedule of times and places for effective outreach to formerly-incarcerated and convicted people. Coordinate rides and volunteer hours.

Coordination of outreach will make it possible to involve more volunteers in the campaign, and an opportunity to organize new members into our networks. If possible, outreach should be done in teams. Rides, times, and locations should be coordinated to achieve maximum impact. Places to outreach and access people who have convictions or who have been in jail or prison include:

  • Reentry Service Providers, Halfway Houses, Drug/Alcohol Treatment Programs and Transition Homes – Reaching out to people living in these residences may contribute to their adjustment process and could organize their long-term support for other campaigns.
  • Community and Youth Empowerment Programs – Voter registration at community centers and programs serving youth will involve young people in the process of social change.
  • Community Colleges – Often people leaving prison or jail return to school, to improve their skill levels, or to stay busy and positive.
  • AA and NA Meetings – Although political organizing is not allowed inside meetings in the recovery community, voter information and registration materials could be distributed outside and after these meetings
    Courthouses and Jail or Prison Voting Lines – FICPM is emphasizing specific voter education about the rights of people with past convictions.

TRAININGS THAT WILL BE DEVELOPED OVER THE COURSE OF OUR CAMPAIGN

  • Training in voter rights laws specific to your state, and the specifics of what is required for a person to register to vote. (This training may be available through your local elections official.)
  • Training for elections officials and organizations doing voter outreach regarding the voting rights of people who have been in prison, have past convictions, or are on probation or parole.
  • Training in our internal methodology for assisting people – How do we keep track of numbers? Do we have additional sign-in sheets? Do we distribute information about future ways to stay involved? How do coordinate schedules and locations for outreach?
  • Training for community members on ballot initiative and issues especially affecting our community. Training will include looking at the sample ballot to understand the format of the ballot.

VOTER EDUCATION MATERIALS THAT WILL BE DEVELOPED SPECIFICALLY FOR PEOPLE AFFECTED BY THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Development of Know Your Rights voter outreach materials to explain the voting rights of people with conviction histories your state.

Development of materials for outreach inside jails and prisons, and to prisoners’ visitors, explaining the rights of people inside to register and vote, depending on their conviction status and designation. (Why Bother to Vote and You Have the Right to Vote, by All of Us or None)

Development of materials explaining ballot initiatives especially relevant to the community of formerly-incarcerated and –convicted people. (Why Bother to Vote, All of Us or None)

Development of materials to encourage people who cannot vote to pledge to mobilize their family members who can vote – more civic engagement of community members. (See Pledge from Partnership for Safety & Justice)

COMMUNICATIONS & PRESS STRATEGY

Outreach through the press and other media will increase the effectiveness of our campaign. People we may not meet in person may learn of their voting rights through media exposure – radio and TV interviews, newspapers, and Internet publicity.

Create a media plan with to get specific local news stories, particularly as voter registration deadlines approach. Identify local reporters who would invite representatives of the campaign on their program, or who would write a newspaper story. Identify local Black and Spanish-language press where we can publicize the voting rights of people with conviction records.
(Press Release, All of Us or None)

4 Responses to National Voting Rights Campaign

  1. Pingback: Critical Mass Progress | CI: We Demand the Right to Vote ~The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement Counters Voter Suppression

  2. Pingback: To be Counted, We Must be Heard « Progressive Pupil

  3. Pingback: Great Piece by Victoria Law on Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement | California Coalition for Women Prisoners

  4. I am very excited about your efforts and planned strategy. I would like to form a chapter here in Dallas, Texas. Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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