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FSU Researchers Explore Eligible Inmate Voting In Florida County Jails

Tom Flanigan
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil (to the immediate right of the sign) and his command staff unveiled a new name for the former county jail in early 2017.

The bulk of those being held in the state's local detention facilities retain voting rights because they haven't been convicted of felonies. Still, initial data indicate wide variations in how counties make the process accessible to eligible inmates.

Florida State University researchers are trying to learn how different county jails enable eligible inmates to vote. Early results show great variation across the state.
FSU Graduate Student Elaine Webb, who is compiling the data, said the national jail inmate population is huge.
"There are over 700,000 people nationwide being detained in jails," she noted.

Florida's jail population was around 40,000 at last count. Webb and Mark Schlakman at the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights are focusing on Florida's 67 county jails and their differing approaches to inmate voting.

"There is a very different investment of time and effort toward these ends and (we're) trying to get a better sense of how to ensure that one's right to vote for people who have not lost their civil rights to vote is respected."

Schlakman concluded, based on the research so far, Leon County's detention facility seems among the best in the state when it comes to facilitating eligible inmate voting.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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