Richmond Sheriff, local organization work to register eligible inmates to vote ahead of Election Day

In Richmond there is a new push to allow eligible inmates to vote.
Published: Oct. 11, 2023 at 6:35 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -There’s a push to allow eligible inmates to vote in Richmond. In Virginia, only felons are barred from voting.

For those convicted of misdemeanors, they can legally cast a ballot.

“We wanted to learn more about that process,” Co-Founder of non-partisan organization Rolling For Freedom Clovia Lawrence said. “Voter education and empowerment, and that’s why we were established because we wanted to make sure the entire community knew that if you had a misdemeanor conviction, didn’t lose your right to vote, and if you were incarcerated with a misdemeanor conviction, you still were eligible to vote.”

Lawrence is helping break barriers by getting those behind bars their ballot.

“A lot of them were shocked that they could vote,” Lawrence said. “They were like, ‘Are you serious about this? Are you setting me up?’ so it’s so funny when we come in, and we’re having these conversations.”

Her group partnered with Richmond Sheriff Antionette Irving to get the work done and educate inmates about their options.

“We have several people that are just here that are pre-trial, and they haven’t been convicted of anything, and they don’t know whether or not they will be able to vote just depending on what their sentencing is,” Sheriff Irving said. “And if they haven’t been sentenced, they can still get an absentee ballot, and we have people that are going to be able to vote before the election time comes if they’re bailed out because they are eligible to vote.”

As of last week, 13 Richmond inmates have received absentee ballots. Six more plan to vote when they are released, three are working to restore their right to vote, and 10 are waiting for the final verification for restoration.

Both Lawrence and Irving said it’s a fundamental right.

“We educate them on their rights to vote,” Irving said. “What restoration is, how it is they can go about getting their rights restored to ensure that if there is an opportunity for them, they can take advantage of the opportunity and what voting is about and to ensure that they know who all is on the ballots.”

Sheriff Irving said if you are a felon eligible to restore your rights, they will also help inmates with that process.

Earlier this year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin did change the process for how convicted felons restore their right to vote.

The administration requires people with felony convictions to apply for their voting rights when released from prison.