Norton Releases BOP Response to Her Concerns About Registering Eligible D.C. Inmates to Vote, Calls for Additional Coordination with D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) response to the letter [link] she sent demanding BOP work closer with the D.C. Board of Elections (BOE) to ensure D.C. inmates in BOP, who are now eligible to vote, are registered to vote. Norton wrote to BOP after learning that BOP had not provided BOE information on where inmates were housed. D.C. recently enacted legislation making incarcerated felons eligible to vote.
“I appreciate the response resp from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to my letter about D.C. inmate voting,” Norton said. “I particularly appreciate that BOP appears to be working to inform D.C. inmates about their voting rights. However, I continue to call on BOP to send the D.C. Board of Elections information on specific inmates and where they are housed, especially in future elections, as it is largely too late for the 2020 election. Because this is public information, sharing this information would not seem to violate any law. If BOP continues to refuse to release this information, I will be forced to introduce legislation to require sharing this information, which is already publicly available.”
BOP’s response follows:
October 5, 2020
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
United States Congresswoman
90 K. Street, N.E., Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20002-4203
Re: D.C. Inmate Voter Registration
Dear Congresswoman Norton:
This letter is in response to your September 30, 2020, inquiry regarding the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) cooperation with the District of Columbia Board of Elections (BOE) in advising D.C. inmates of their right to vote in the upcoming 2020 election and facilitating voter registration.
In order to protect individual privacy, and in accordance with Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 513.34(b), the BOP does not release personal identifying information without explicit consent of the inmates. Therefore, in this instance, the BOP, in cooperation with the BOE, took action to disseminate D.C. voter registration information to inmates electronically to all inmates in BOP custody. In addition to the electronic information, the BOP also provided voter information and registration materials at the institution level through the Re-Entry Affairs Coordinator (RAC) at each institution.
As early as August 27, 2020, the BOP sent the first of three electronic messages to all BOP inmates regarding D.C. resident voter registration through the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS). These messages, captioned with a banner titled “D.C. Residents,” specifically notified D.C. inmates convicted of felony offenses of their eligibility to register and vote in the upcoming election. These emails contained informational materials detailing the criteria for registration eligibility, registration instructions, and printable voter registration forms in both English and Spanish. Additionally, the BOP electronically disseminated voter information materials provided by the League of Women Voters. The BOP also directed the BOE to mail voter registration forms and prepaid, self-addressed envelopes to all institutions and contract facilities for inmates to complete and mail their registration information. These steps ensured D.C. inmates had access to the voter registration materials electronically through the inmate email system and physically through the resource center at each institution. To facilitate registration, the BOP provided the BOE with contact information of the RAC at each institution. The RACs maintain voter registration information and registration materials. Voter information and registration materials were also provided at the request of Disability Rights DC at University Legal Services to provide an enhanced level of support for inmates who require assistance with registration due to disabilities. Similarly, 14 visually-impaired inmates received hand-delivered voter registration materials to be completed with assistance.
According to the BOE, the BOP’s efforts have resulted in the successful registration of approximately 300 D.C. inmates to date for the November 2020 election. The BOE reported an additional 50 inmates returned registration forms but have not yet been registered due to errors on the registration forms. The BOP is working with the BOE to contact those 50 inmates and correct their registration forms. The BOP continues to make D.C. voter registration information and mailing materials available to all D.C. inmates.
I trust this is responsive to your inquiry.
Assistant Director/General Counsel
Congresswoman Norton’s original letter follows:
September 30, 2020
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street NW
Washington, DC 20534
Dear Director Carvajal:
As you know, the District of Columbia recently enacted legislation making incarcerated felons eligible to vote. I write with concern about the apparent lack of cooperation by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in carrying out that law.
I understand from public reporting that the D.C. Board of Elections (BOE) has requested from BOP a list of prisoners’ names and where they are housed, but has only received from BOP a list of facilities housing D.C. residents, not prisoners’ names. BOP has apparently informed BOE it can only share information on specific prisoners for law enforcement purposes, not for voting. This is very disturbing as D.C. residents, including D.C. Code felons, are housed in BOP facilities across the country, and BOE must be able to reach each of them to inform them of their right to vote. Moreover, the name and location of inmates is public information and is posted on BOP’s website, though it does not include their home jurisdiction. There is no reason the names and locations of inmates from D.C. should not be provided to BOE.
I ask that you make this information available immediately to BOE and that you provide a written response by October 5, 2020.
Eleanor Holmes Norton