Every Vote Matters: Help for Voters in Georgia Jails
This March, the Southern Center for Human Rights began a year-long project to empower and enfranchise eligible voters detained in GA jails. With our partner Dēmos, we mailed 1,000 nonpartisan, voter education packets containing know-your-rights documents and absentee ballot applications to people incarcerated in six Georgia jails ahead of the presidential primary. In early October, SCHR sent voting rights information and absentee ballot forms to about 1700 people detained in various GA jails before the election, mostly folks who had written to SCHR in the previous six months. Now, thanks to generous funding and a huge team effort, we are sending another, much bigger mailing in advance of the senate runoff in January to individuals detained in GA jails.
A first batch was sent out last week to over 7000 people detained in Cobb, Dekalb, Dougherty, Fayette, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, Richmond and Sumpter counties. This week, a second batch will include folks in Muscogee, Columbia, Glynn, Randolph, Forsyth, Hall, Chatham, Bibb and Clarke counties – at least another 5000 packets. Included in this mailing:
- Cover letter
- Updated Know Your Rights handout
- Voter registration form
- Absentee ballot request form
- Address of all of the county registrar offices
- Metered envelope for sending in the forms
This endeavor is necessary at this particular moment in our nation’s history. Felony disenfranchisement is deeply and unequivocally tied to states’ Jim Crow efforts to suppress the Black vote. We’re inspired by our sister organizations’ voter protection and education work, including Dēmos, Fair Fight, New Georgia Project, the Campaign Legal Center, SONG, and the NAACP of Chatham County, and now Women on the Rise, who are working to register formerly incarcerated voters ahead of the Georgia runoff election. We saw a specific need to reach eligible voters in Georgia jails. Our goal is to provide full and clear information to facilitate voting rights and to reduce barriers to voting.
Georgia is particularly guilty of voter suppression for system-involved people because we criminalize so many of our citizens. About 527,000 Georgia residents are behind bars or under community supervision. Felony convictions prevented about 250,000 Georgia residents from voting in 2016, and many more are likely discouraged from voting by a lack of clarity about when and how voting rights are restored. This confusion and misinformation has been weaponized against people whose civil rights have been stripped by the criminal legal system.
“Roughly 40,000 people are held in Georgia jails on any given day—many of whom are detained pretrial and eligible to vote,” said Sarah Geraghty, Senior Counsel at SCHR. “However, people in jails are often unaware that they remain eligible to vote or that there are means available for requesting and casting ballots from jail.”
These documents are included here for you to print and mail to loved ones who are incarcerated but eligible to vote. Please inform our office of any barriers to the voting process by calling (404) 688-1202.