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May 3, 2024

Legislation to Increase Voting Access Advances in House

DENVER, CO - The House today advanced legislation sponsored by Representatives Manny Rutinel and Kyle Brown on a preliminary vote to make it easier for eligible confined Coloradans to vote.

“The right to vote is guaranteed by the constitution, yet eligible voters in our jails and detention centers have expressed that they often do not have the tools to exercise this right,” said Rep. Manny Rutinel, D-Commerce City. “We know that Coloradans who are Black, Indigenous and people of color are overrepresented in our criminal justice system, and when they are prevented from voting, their voices are not heard. This legislation helps address the gaps in voting access by creating clear guidelines for county clerks and sheriffs that will make it easier for Coloradans, regardless of their confinement status, to use their voice in our democratic process.”

“Folks who are incarcerated have rights, and this bill seeks to make it easier for them to exercise their right to vote,” said Rep. Kyle Brown, D-Louisville. “Low levels of voter turnout in our jails show that there are not enough resources or education about voting access in confined spaces. I’m proud to carry this legislation to ensure that eligible voters will have the opportunity to engage in our democratic process.”

SB24-072 would require county clerks and county sheriffs to create and implement a plan to facilitate in-person voting for eligible voters in county jails and detention centers. Under current law, U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are not currently serving time for a felony conviction are eligible to vote.

While Colorado has a robust vote-by-mail program, voters in jails and detention centers face extreme barriers in accessing the ballot. In the 2020 general election, out of an estimated eligible population of 5,205 confined voters, only 557 individuals (6.97 percent) received a ballot. In the 2022 general election, there was an estimated eligible population of 4,876 confined voters, but only 231 individuals (4.73 percent) received ballots.

SB24-072 would mandate at least one day of in-person voting at each facility, alleviating the pressure on these voters to navigate the complexities of voting eligibility, and helping ensure every eligible citizen is provided the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

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