Registering Eligible Voters Within the Justice System

L-R: A New Way of Life’s Manuel Galindo and Marcus McKinney, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Registrar/Recorder-County Clerk Dean Logan, and Office of Diversion and Reentry Director Judge (ret.) Peter Espinoza.

Los Angeles County is ramping up its efforts to register all eligible citizens to vote in the November 6 General Election, including those currently or previously involved with the justice system.

“The election is fast approaching, and we can’t afford to miss the opportunity to engage our justice-involved residents in the work of their democracy,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “The work and importance of this initiative go well beyond this November, however, as voting and civic engagement must be a lifetime commitment if it is to result in meaningful empowerment for these residents.”

With the voter registration deadline coming up on October 22, Judge (Ret.) Peter Espinoza, director of the County Office of Diversion and Reentry, and Registrar- Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan reported on the County’s progress in empowering as many justice-involved individuals as possible to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Espinoza and Logan are collaborating with the Chief Probation Officer, Public Defender, Alternate Public Defender, Sheriff and community stakeholders such as A New Way of Life in a campaign called LA Free the Vote. It builds on the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Voting While Incarcerated program and works in tandem with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Unlock the Vote program. They have developed voter education materials, trained staff at various County departments on how to register voters, and distributed voter registration cards at County facilities and various events countywide.

Their combined efforts have already registered about 1,000 inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center and Century Regional Detention Facility. Plans are underway to register more inmates at Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility in the coming weeks.

A New Way of Life founder Susan Burton has been helping jail inmates register to vote, in addition to facilitating their successful transition back into society. “I cannot tell you how impactful it has been to help people in the justice system, such as I used to be, feel like they have a voice in democracy,” Burton said. “At the end of the day, this is stuff that’s going to change our communities.”