ACLU of Northern California Launches Every Vote Counts" Campaign

October 11, 2006 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, working closely with probation offices, public libraries and community-based organizations throughout northern and central California, announced today that it will inform thousands of individuals with felony convictions that they have the right to vote if they are off parole, on probation or have completed probation. Nearly 350,000 individuals are on probation in California.

“Voting is a precious right in a democracy. Yet, there is so much confusion and misinformation about the voting rights of individuals who have a criminal conviction,” said ACLU of Northern California Associate Director Maya Harris. “We launched this campaign to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in the political process and that individuals are not disenfranchised due to a lack of information.”

“Every Vote Counts” is a dynamic public education campaign to inform individuals with felony convictions about their right to vote. Sixteen bus shelters and billboard advertisements are featured in San Francisco’s Mission District and Bay View neighborhood, and five bus shelters were placed in East Oakland along East 14th Street, also known as International Boulevard. In addition, radio public service announcements are being sent to outlets throughout the Bay Area, Sacramento and Fresno. Posters and palm cards will be extensively distributed and a voting rights hotline ((415) 293-6325) and Web page have been established. All materials are being produced in both English and Spanish.

More than 75 percent of northern and central California probation offices have already signed up to receive probationer voting materials from the ACLU of Northern California, including hundreds of posters and tens of thousands of palm cards in English and Spanish. Many offices have also requested sample employee e-mail notices and manual inserts to educate staff about the voting rights of probationers.

“I’ve worked as a chief probation officer for over 20 years and I believe that voting is an important part of re-integrating probationers back into community and civic life,” said Jim Moffett, Chief Probation Officer for Inyo County. “Voting is a key element of citizenship, and assisting our clients towards improved citizenship is critical to our mission. That is why I support this campaign and plan on using the know your rights materials.”

The ACLU of Northern California is also working with All of Us or None, an organizing initiative started by people who were formerly incarcerated, and the League of Women Voters to bring this campaign to the broader community.

Dorsey Nunn, Director of All of Us or None, a project of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, said that members of his group felt this issue was so important that several of them volunteered to be featured in the advertisements. “They wanted to not only get the word out that people with felony convictions have the right to vote, but that our votes and voices count,” said Nunn.

Jody Sanford, President of League of Women Voters of San Francisco added: “This campaign, Every Vote Counts, is so important because it helps ensure that individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system are informed of their right to vote and therefore have the ability to participate fully in our democracy.”

This week, thousands of posters and palm cards will also be sent to more than 500 community-based organizations and public libraries throughout northern and central California.

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