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Multnomah County Encourages Inmates to Vote
Some people are surprised there

Multnomah County is making one final push to provide information and resources to anyone who is eligible to vote — including people formerly or currently involved in the justice system.

In partnership with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Multnomah County Election's voter education and outreach specialist has been working to help individuals currently held in jail for misdemeanors update their voter registrations and even vote from jail.

“We do have voters that are currently in jail that get their ballot through the mail and return it to us and are able to vote,” said Catherine McMullen, voter education and outreach specialist for Multnomah County Elections. “We want all eligible voters to be able to participate in the election process.”

She emphasized the resources and rights that citizens have to vote, including those who are experiencing homelessness and those who have formerly been incarcerated on felony charges, letting them know that they also have the power to vote.

“As soon as you have finished serving your time for a felony, you are eligible to re-register to vote and vote again,” said McMullen.

Through the Election Division’s efforts, she also connected with Eloise Holdship, a corrections counselor with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, who’s launched a voter registration initiative for adults in custody.

This work has been especially significant because, as Holdship found, almost none of the individuals she works with are aware of their voting rights. Holdship says she wasn’t aware of their rights, either — which is why she decided to launch the initiative.

“A lot of folks, once they are arrested and awaiting or serving a sanction, just sort of assume they are a person in custody and don’t have much choice in a lot of things,” she says.

Stephanie LaCarrubba, a programs unit manager at the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, has supported the effort. She says it's important to increase voter turnout among incarcerated individuals who can be disproportionately impacted by many issues on the November ballot.

Though the goal of the initiative was to encourage incarcerated individuals to register for the Nov. 3 General Election, Holdship says she doesn’t expect voting rights awareness in Multnomah County jails to stop anytime soon.

“We want to keep it going from here on out,” she says. “Even if it’s in a month when there’s not even a local election, and the adult in custody requests to register, we’d be ready, and we could facilitate all of that.”

Some have questioned if it's a good use of tax dollars to put so much effort into encouraging people to vote who may not be up-to-date on the issues.

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2020-10-07 16:36:16Last Update: 2020-10-07 16:55:47

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