Mass. legislature passes two bills recognizing that incarcerated people do not vote in local elections; third introduced

Two Mass. bills pass, and a third one introduced, to free towns from having to use Census counts of incarcerated people to create additional expensive and unnecessary voting precincts.

by Peter Wagner, June 3, 2011

Two Massachusetts bills I blogged about in April and May passed the legislature yesterday, and a similar bill applying to a third town was introduced last week.

The two passed bills allow the towns of Lancaster (H03440) and Harvard (H03439) to exclude the prison population when complying with state law that requires the creation of additional voting precincts when a town reaches a Census population of 6,200 and again at 8,000.

In Massachusetts, precincts are administrative units that determine where you vote. Although the Census Bureau counts people in prison as residents of the town where the prison is located, incarcerated people are either barred from voting or are required to vote via absentee ballot in their home districts. Therefore, there is no reason to force towns that host prisons to bear the extra administrative costs of creating additional precincts to serve voters who don’t exist.

The third introduced bill, H03468 , applies to Middleton and would exempt that town from having to create a third precinct to accommodate the population counted by the Census Bureau at the Essex County Correctional Center, but none of whom will be standing in line to cast ballots in local precincts.

These three bills should pass and be signed by the governor because they are good for these towns and don’t have any negative effects for the home communities of incarcerated people; but the best solution, of course, would be for the Census Bureau to count incarcerated people in the correct location: at home.

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