Senator Reverend Warnock, Colleagues Urge Justice Department and Bureau of Prisons to Promote Voting Access for Eligible Americans in Federal Custody 

Citing an executive order from President Biden, the Senators encourage the agencies to continue alleviating the unique barriers for eligible incarcerated people to exercise their right to vote

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) urged Attorney General Merrick Garland and Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Colette Peters to provide more information on their efforts to promote voting access for eligible adult Americans in federal custody.

In a letter authored by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and signed by ten additional Senate Democrats including Senator Warnock, the lawmakers outlined additional opportunities for reform within BOP to bolster voting access for incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote under existing law. The lawmakers also requested additional information from BOP about how they are ensuring eligible incarcerated voters can participate in the democratic process. 

“In the three years since President Biden issued an Executive Order on ‘Promoting Access to Voting’ (Executive Order 14019), BOP has made progress toward fulfilling the Justice Department’s commitment to promoting voting access … In response to this directive, BOP has initiated a number of policy changes, such as providing informational handouts, to ensure that individuals in custody understand their eligibility to vote and ability to access the process for casting a ballot. Hundreds of individuals inside federal prisons have successfully registered and voted in recent elections,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The Senators also outlined additional opportunities for reform, writing: “Under current policies, BOP does not share important voter information with local election officials, and it can be difficult to know whether voter registration materials and ballots successfully reach incarcerated voters. Additional efforts and coordination are therefore required to ensure that individuals properly receive election information and submit election materials in a timely manner. BOP might consider pursuing an exception to the regulations prohibiting information sharing for election agencies, such as a Routine Use Exception to the Privacy Act.”

Senator Warnock and his colleagues continued by suggesting efforts such as reclassifying mail from election agencies and supporting incarcerated persons with disabilities, writing: “[A]lthough BOP has adopted a practice of treating some incoming mail from election officials and all outgoing mail addressed to election officials as ‘legal mail’ or ‘special mail,’ this practice is not always followed. I encourage BOP to consider comprehensively adding election agencies to the list of offices for which all correspondence is considered ‘special mail.’ I would also encourage BOP to build on existing work to support voters with disabilities and to provide incarcerated voters with important information on candidates and ballot initiatives.”

The Senators concluded with a series of information requests to be answered no later than April 12, 2024. In addition to Senator Warnock and Majority Whip Durbin, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Full text of the letter is available HERE.