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Rep. Dutton Jr., Harold V.

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Inmates in the Harris County Jail to vote under proposal by Rep. Dutton  print page

by: Rep. Dutton Jr., Harold V.
05/06/2013

Austin, TX – (May 6, 2013). Before a Texas House Committee, Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr. (Houston) argued that denying a person’s right to vote is a most egregious attack on the most precious of civil liberties. Under current law, inmates in the Harris County Jail are prevented from voting even though many are eligible because they are simply awaiting trial or serving time for a misdemeanor conviction and not serving time for any felony conviction. Dutton's HB-370, considered today by the House Elections Committee, would change all of that because eligible inmates in the HCJ would be permitted to register and vote-- all on election day.

Rep. Dutton stated "of the 8,500 inmates in the HCJ, approximately 7,000 are eligible to vote every election day but prevented from voting because of confinement in the HCJ. Texas is legally obligated to eliminate the barrier of confinement preventing HCJ inmates from fully exercising their right to vote."

The turnover rate in the HCJ, about 85% every thirty days, renders the voting options for HCJ inmates meaningless under current Texas law. Rep. Dutton' HB-370 would remedy this paradox by permitting eligible HCJ inmates to contemporaneously register to vote and vote on election day.

Rep. Dutton further stated that “failing to provide a reasonable opportunity for eligible HCJ inmates to exercise the right to vote is an assault on the democratic process and devalues the history of the voting rights struggle in this country.

HB- 370 was left pending in the House Elections Committee.


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