Poll: Many Coloradans unaware of voting rights for those with criminal convictions, pending cases

Posted at 2:05 PM, Oct 02, 2018

DENVER – Coloradans are largely unaware that many people with prior criminal convictions – and some who still have pending cases – are allowed to vote in elections, according to new polling released Tuesday.

The poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling between Aug. 24 and 26, and was commissioned by the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, which is a nonprofit that aims to “eliminate the overuse of the criminal justice system,” according to the organization’s website. The poll was released publicly Tuesday.

In Colorado, U.S. citizens aged 18 and older can still vote even if they have criminal convictions—so long as they meet a series of conditions, according to the organization:

  • People who have been convicted of felonies or misdemeanors and who have already successfully completed their sentences are allowed to vote.
  • People who are currently on probation for felony or misdemeanor convictions are allowed to vote.
  • People currently serving jail time for a misdemeanor conviction or who are awaiting trial are allowed to vote.
  • People are not allowed to vote if they are serving a felony conviction but have not completed their sentence.

But according to the poll, many Coloradans aren’t aware of those rules.

The poll found that 57 percent of the 600 people surveyed for the poll knew that people could vote once they complete their sentences—but that percentage fell to 36 percent among people who didn’t identify as white or Hispanic/Latino.

“People think they have been disenfranchised by the system, so they end up not exercising their right to vote,” said CCJRC deputy director Juston Cooper in a statement. “This confusion among voters is resulting in a large segment of the population not having its voice heard. We are especially concerned about the disproportionate impact it is likely to have on black voter engagement.”

Similarly, the poll found that just 43 percent of respondents were aware that people on probation were allowed to vote, and the same percentage were aware the people in jail awaiting trial or serving a misdemeanor sentence could vote from jail.

According to state data, there are about 77,000 adults on probation in Colorado. The poll released Tuesday aims to increase awareness for the CCJRC’s campaign to increase knowledge for voters with criminal convictions.

Colorado also allows residents to register to vote online and to change their party affiliation. For more Colorado voting resources, click here.