ANC commissioner for 6B08 (and at-large candidate) Chander Jayaraman and I recently had a conversation about a very important topic. He wanted to make sure that I’d seen a segment by Scott MacFarlane on District of Columbia inmates being able to vote in this election, which aired on NBC local news on Tuesday night. The segment highlighted efforts to get inmates registered to vote– something that was possible thanks to legislation that passed back in July of this year, but which has also proved harder to carry out than originally thought. Some of the challenges of this newly-granted right to vote include a lack of traditional documents as well as inmates’ lack of knowledge of their rights (you can read a piece about that very problem on The Washington Post).
But one piece of news that is not getting nearly enough coverage is that fact that ANC 7F07, which has traditionally been a vacant single-member district on account of having, as Open ANC phrases it, “no permanent residents,” can have an ANC commissioner representing it because of the July legislation.
According to Chander, “The DC Council passed legislation to restore the vote for inmates, which means that, for the first time, they can have their own locally-elected ANC commissioner and they can run for that office. ANC 7F07 includes the jail and the adjacent Harriet Tubman Women’s shelter. Because no inmate is on the ballot, they would have to get write-in votes to win a seat.”
With only 11 days until Election Day, it’s imperative to help spread the word so one of the residents at the women’s shelter or one of the inmates at the jail can step up and fulfill this role. Chander, who has been working with a group called Neighbors for Justice DC as well as with the DC Board of Elections and Ethics as well as the Department of Corrections, has tried to ensure that both inmates and shelter residents are aware of their rights. Unfortunately, the DC Jail appears not to have shared information as yet about how inmates can run.
Chander also mentioned how important it is not just to raise the issue of rights, but to help provide a bridge for whoever is elected to 7F07 to be successful at their role, considering the relative transience and lack of support of some of its eligible residents. An average stay at the DC Jail can last anywhere between 90-120 days, although some inmates do stay longer. There is room for up to 175 women at the Tubman shelter, which is run by Catholic Charities. I unsuccessfully tried to ascertain the allowable length of stay for women at the shelter, but hope to hear back from Catholic Charities soon.
What can you do? If you know someone who is an inmate or who resides at the shelter, please spread the word that they are able to vote and run for Advisory Neighborhood Commission as a write-in candidate.