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By The Skanner News
Published: 01 October 2008

ATLANTA (AP) -- Some inmates in Georgia jails are being registered to vote in the Nov. 4 election.
About two dozen inmates of the Clarke County Jail in Athens signed up in the facility's first voter registration drive this week as part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's "Democracy Behind Bars."
In DeKalb County in suburban Atlanta, the sheriff's office helped 376 jail inmates request absentee ballots and registered an additional 441 inmates for the upcoming election, Sheriff Thomas Brown said Friday.
Brown said the jail was across the street from the voter registration office, and "eligible inmates, some of whom can view the building from their jail cells, are unable to exercise the freedom for which so many people have fought and even sacrificed their lives."
The SCLC hopes to register 1 million new voters nationwide, according to the civil rights group's general counsel, Dexter Wimbish.
"The SCLC is only interested in getting people to the polls, and we're using the excitement around this election to get (prisoners) to participate in subsequent elections," Wimbish told the Athens Banner-Herald.
Democracy Behind Bars is a national effort to register eligible voters who are in prison. The Atlanta-based SCLC also signed up voters at the Fulton County Jail for the 2006 elections, Wimbish said.
Monday is the deadline for Georgia voters to register for next month's election.
In addition to the first-time voters at the local jail, 15 other prisoners filled out absentee ballot applications, according to Clarke County sheriff's Capt. Eric Pozen.
In Georgia, felons cannot vote if they are incarcerated or on parole or probation, according to Gail Schrader, Athens-Clarke supervisor of elections and registration.
But prisoners who are in jail facing felony charges - but not convicted - have the right to vote in Georgia, she said.
Wimbish said convicted felons are "automatically eligible to vote" after completing their sentences.


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