Inmate voter registration causing concern in Harrison County
CORYDON, IN (WAVE) - The Indiana primaries are just a few weeks away and many around WAVE country have registered to vote and are preparing to cast their ballots.
Inside the Harrison County Jail, 22 inmates sent in voter registration forms to county clerk Sherry Brown. Of those, a handful have been convicted of felonies and are ineligible while some are already registered elsewhere, Brown said.
Those registrants are the first large group of inmates to fill out voter registrations from the jail in more than a decade, Brown said.
Many in the community are concerned about the recent influx of inmate voter interest, raising concerns through social media about how inmates could vote privately should they request ballots. There has been enough concern of this that led two people to file complaints about inmate absentee ballots coming in.
Brown said this is likely cause for confusion in the community as no inmates have sent in absentee ballots. Instead, they filled out voter registration forms and a few could be considered eligible to vote from there should they request an absentee ballot.
Tony Myers, a community leader and candidate for Harrison County Council, has said he filed a complaint over this because it's concerning that there's a sudden interest in voting from inmates where there hasn't been in the past. With the sheriff's election among those on the ballot, he worries that any outside pressure to how this could influence the election.
"You had no one vote for the presidential election, the biggest election we have and no one voted for that one? And now, to have 22 come in, it seems kind of crazy," Myers said.
"What I instructed my jail commander and assistant jail commander to do is go through the jail and ask if anybody wanted to register to vote," said Harrison County Sheriff Rod Seelye. After concerns in other jails where inmates did not have the clear access to vote, Seelye said he wanted to ensure those that wanted to would be able to cast a ballot in Harrison County.
"They were given a voter registration form and an envelope. We did not handle the voter registration forms and the inmates mailed them off at their discretion," Seelye said.
Those voter registration forms came to Brown's office in two groups, one with 18 voter registration forms inside and another with four inside.
"It's been alleged that there are absentee ballots floating around in the jail and my staff is filling them out and making the inmates sign them. That is incorrect, it is completely false," Seelye said.
Any requests for absentee ballots will have to come from the inmates themselves, Seelye said. And should they choose to vote, he said they will be allowed to do so privately and without any interference from jail staff.
If there are concerns about voter intimidation, Brown said inmates are able to vote at the clerk's office.
"The inmates could be brought here to vote in our election room where they would not have a camera and would be in an office where there would not be any question if someone had intimidated them," Brown said.
The local election board will meet to discuss the complaints and any issues surrounding the recent inmate voter registrations. A date and time has not yet been set.
Myers said he's unsure if there has been any kind of problems within the jail but he thinks the community deserves to know one way or the other.
"I think everybody just wants to know the truth and wants to know it's done fair," Myers said.
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