REGISTERING VOTERS BEHIND BARS
Our campaign aims to register eligible inmates and their family members during visitation. This first-of-its-kind ambitious partnership between Houston Justice, the Harris County Sheriff's Department, and the Harris County Tax Assessor's Office serves as a pilot as we expand moving forward.
According to this Houston Press Article "Harris County has one of the highest rates of pre-trial, legally innocent defendants in lockup." According to jail population reports from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards... In Harris County that number is 70 percent (Dallas County, meanwhile, has an even higher pre-trial detention rate of about 74 percent). That means roughly 7,000 of the 10,000 inmates in the Harris County Jail on any given day haven't been charged with a crime yet. These inmates won't be able to ride to a voting booth and vote because they're incarcerated.
By enlisting the help of Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrars (VDVR's) we are able to reach virtually all the eligible inmates inside the Harris County Jail and enable them to exercise their right to vote.
Here's how it works:
- Volunteer VDR's will assemble at 9 am in the Lobby at Harris County Jail, 1200 Baker St.
- Present VDR Certificate & Sign-in with Houston Justice Coalition
- Present photo ID at Visitor Check In Window & Receive Visitor Badge & Key for Secured Locker (personal belongings, especially cell phones must be secured and are not allowed past the lobby).
- At 9:15 (after check-in) VDR's will be escorted to the secured side of the jail and gather for a 15 minute orientation (voter registration forms will be provided at that time).
- At 9:30 VDR's will be escorted to the jail pods and begin registering eligible inmates, working in teams of up to 3 VDR's for every Harris County Deputy escort.
- At approximately 12:30 pm registrations will be completed and VDR's will gather for 30 minute wrap up and debriefing. Completed voter registrations will be returned to Houston Justice for VAN input and delivery within 5 days to Harris County Tax Office.
- Volunteers working the Visitor shift will have a 2 hour break. Visitor shift will begin at 3 pm and will take place in the Lobby area.
A SUCCESS STORY
For the 2018 election cycle, Houston Justice's #ProjectOrange program:
- registered 662 incarcerated citizens and their family members to vote over the course of four consecutive Sundays from Jan. 24 thru Feb. 4 and assisted 58 inmates to apply for and receive Ballots by Mail
- is returning to complete the second phase of voter registration, four consecutive Sundays beginning Sept. 16 thru Oct. 7 in time for the mid-term election Nov. 6, 2018
- confirmed ongoing Harris County program with Sheriff's Department, County Clerk's Office, and County Tax Assessor /Voter Registrar
- plans to expand to other counties across the state in the first quarter of 2019 by collaborating with Austin Justice Coalition, Next Generation Action Network (Dallas), Travis County Jail, Montgomery County, Ft. Bend County, Beaumont/Port Arthur, Galveston County, and others.
What We've Achieved
- Beginning in 2014, we collected grand jury applications from diverse communities across Houston. ABC 13 Story Here
- We lobbied then DA Devon Anderson to support Grand Jury reform in the upcoming legislative session. Here's the resulting OpEd from her office.
- After testifying at the Texas Capitol, the Grand Jury selection process changed effective 2016. Houston Chronicle story here.