In Washington, thousands of people who have a constitutional right to vote do not have the means to cast a ballot.

Normally, this would be cause of great uproar, unless those people are jail inmates.

We suspect apathy is a large reason so many jails in the state aren't being held accountable for failing to give an entire class of individuals the ability to vote.

Following an investigation, Disability Rights Washington found only a handful of Washington's 38 county jails have a policy for facilitating the voting process for inmates, a Saturday Associated Press story reported. Of those that do have policies, few actually follow them.

What results is a large population that cannot register, receive ballots or cast a vote, the investigation found.

This affects a large portion of the disabled population, since people held in jails are much more likely to have a disability than the general public.

Going to jail does not eliminate their rights. Jail inmates, unlike prison inmates, are awaiting trial or have been found guilty of a misdemeanor. Thus, they retain their right to vote.

It should stay this way.

Inmates already relinquish certain rights, and in many cases this is justified. But inmates shouldn't be impeded from voting, whether by law or lack of effort on the part of county jails.

State and national lawmakers represent all citizens, even those who have done something to land themselves behind bars. Those with misdemeanors, or who have yet to be convicted of a crime, shouldn't be in the same position as prison inmates, who cannot let their voice be heard.

The problems facing the incarcerated population are often ignored or dismissed. That's why it's a good thing Disability Rights Washington conducted this investigation.

Unfortunately, Whitman County wasn't one of the three county jails cited in the report as having policies and practices that help inmates exercise their voting rights.

Our county jail must provide this population what they need to take part in the democratic process.

Recommended for you