NAACP Describes ‘Concern’ on Prisoner Voting Rights

POTTSTOWN PA – Concerns about “voting rights of people incarcerated in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility” are being expressed by the Pottstown NAACP in a letter delivered to the county Board of Elections and its chairman, county Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence. The chapter is urging “changes that will allow people in the county prison greater ability to vote,” its newsletter stated Monday (Nov. 15, 2021).

Its letter, signed by President Johnny Corson, noted that “unless serving under a felony conviction or a voting-related offense, incarcerated people do not lose their voting rights … are eligible to vote via absentee ballot.” That includes “anyone serving a sentence for a misdemeanor or in jail on pre-trial detention,” Corson wrote.

The county prison’s existing policies on voting rights “are vague” because they lack “little guidance for whether and how inmates may vote,” he added.

Corson acknowledged the prison makes absentee ballot applications available upon request. Completed ballots can be returned through a prison caseworker who, in turn, will forward the application to the county. That “may not be enough,” Corson suggested. “Inmates may not be properly informed of their voting rights or the procedure for voting while incarcerated,” he explained.

The chapter is urging the county “to adopt specific policies and issue a voting rights handbook to incarcerated individuals,” enabling prison officials to correctly administer voting procedures.

Chapter Secretary Emanuel Wilkerson reports Lee Soltysiak, the election board’s chief clerk, replied to the letter on Lawrence’s behalf to report “a detailed response” to its comments “is being drafted and will be returned shortly.”

Correctional facility photo provided by Montgomery County