- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Denver is cranking up voter outreach to some folks who probably think they aren’t eligible to cast ballots - jail inmates.

The Denver Elections Division announced Wednesday it plans to make a special effort this year to remind the 2,000 or so people in Denver’s jails that they may be eligible to vote.

Colorado bars felons from voting, but citizens who are awaiting trial and anyone who has completed a misdemeanor sentence is eligible.

“We want to make sure that people know that anyone that’s confined has always had the ability to cast a vote,” said Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division.

A nonprofit advocacy group, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, plans to pay for pamphlets and increased educational efforts this election season to explain the rules to jail inmates.

Denver is the first Colorado city to encourage jail voting. But similar outreach efforts go back more than a decade in other states.

Most people in Denver’s two jails are in custody only briefly, but several hundred are held for weeks, months or years. Elections administrators had no guess how many of the long-term inmates may be eligible to vote, or how many vote already because they know they are eligible.

After the educational effort, eligible inmates can receive a ballot by mail and cast ballots. Election judges will be dispatched to the facilities on Election Day to make sure the election is being held properly, similar to voting procedures in group nursing homes. Dillard said the change would add no expense to the election.

“There has been kind of a long-term urban myth that people once they have a criminal record are not allowed to vote,” said Pam Clifton of the CCJRC. “That’s a misperception that we’re trying to change.”

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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