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'I Didn't Know I Could Vote': Inmates Sent Voter Information Cards

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - A campaign is underway in Denver and around the state to get inmates to register to vote. A newly-released survey shows large numbers of inmates and the public have no idea you can vote if you are convicted of a crime.

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CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Dustin Cordova. (credit: CBS)

CBS4's Rick Sallinger spoke with inmate Dustin Cordova at the Denver County jail.

"I didn't know I could vote, period, because I had been in jail for felonies," he said.

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(credit: CBS)

Cordova has served time for auto theft and domestic violence. He is one of many who have received cards informing them they still can vote if:

  • You have a criminal conviction and have served your sentence.
  • You are a pretrial detainee in jail.
  • You are on probation.
  • You are in jail for a misdemeanor.
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(credit: CBS)

That is according to the information provided by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

Cordova says he now recognizes the need and right to vote.

"My kids are growing up, and I can have an input into their future so it was a shocker to know I could vote," he said.

There are 70-100 million people in the U.S. with some kind of criminal record.

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Juston Cooper with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition says most people don't understand the voting laws.

"We have to bust this pervasive urban myth that if you have a criminal record in state of Colorado you cannot vote," he said.

Inmates like Lawrence Maymes tell CBS4 politics is a popular topic of discussion.

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Lawrence Maymes (credit: CBS)

"A lot of them are there to get their time done and get back on the streets, but a lot them they talk about politics," he told Sallinger from behind glass in the visitor room at the Denver County Jail.

Those serving time or parole for felony convictions are not allowed to vote.

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(credit: CBS)

Dustin has served 8 1/2 years in at least five jails. Only now has he learned he can vote.

The inmates who register to vote will have their ballots delivered to them at the jails.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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