Voting and Civic Engagement
Civic engagement is one of our pillars of successful re-entry and plays a critical role in creating systemic change and addressing disenfranchisement. Disenfranchisement has been linked to recidivism (Brown, 2020; Hall, Wooten, Lundgren, 2016) and studies have found that even a short-term jail stay for a misdemeanor offense can cause significant voter disenfranchisement; significantly more so in black defendants (White, 2019). Nation Outside has built a replicable civic engagement program model into our chapter structure which aims to promote empowerment and self-advocacy, strengthen a sense of belonging, provide positive role modeling, build safer and stronger communities, and increase political representation.
Many people are not aware that in the state of Michigan, individuals with felony convictions can vote as soon as they are released from a correctional facility, and that individuals waiting for trial can request an absentee ballot to be sent to the jail in which they are being held. We encourage all formerly incarcerated people and their families to make sure they are registered to vote and to use their voice in local, state, and federal elections.
Nation Outside and the Voting Access for All Coalition (VAAC) created a report, "Ensuring the Right to Vote: How to Expand Voting Access in Michigan Jails", examining the state of jail voting practices in Michigan, across all 83 counties. The report includes explanations of Michigan voting law, the problems present in seeking to cast a ballot from jail, and best practice recommendations for sheriffs, county clerks, legislators, and other stakeholders.