‘Our Voice Still Matters’: Philly Looks to Register People on Probation and Parole to Vote
Miles Bryan - October 1, 2019
Diane Duffin pays attention to politics. She’s worried about federal funding for Medicaid and Social Security, and is skeptical of President Donald Trump. But Duffin, 37, has never voted. She assumed her criminal history and her current probation status made her ineligible.
Duffin was surprised to find out Tuesday morning she is eligible to vote. She was even more surprised by who told her — an employee with the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department. She was at the department’s Center City building for a probation meeting when she came upon half a dozen employees registering people to vote.
“I didn’t think we could vote, but now I found out we can vote,” Duffin said, smiling after filling out a paper registration form. “Our voice still matters.”
On Tuesday the Philadelphia Adult Probation and Parole Department teamed up with the City Commissioners’ Office to host a voter registration and education drive.
The effort, which is new this year, is designed to reach unregistered voters on probation or parole.
In Pennsylvania, people with felony convictions can vote following the completion of their sentence, even if they are on probation or parole. The state is one of fourteen that automatically restores voting rights upon a person’s release from prison, according to the group Nonprofit VOTE.
Darlene Miller, chief of Philadelphia’s Probation and Parole Department, says that isn’t widely known.
“One of the things we realized within our population is that they don’t realize they have the right to vote,” she said. “They think if they are on probation, or if they have been convicted of a felony, they don’t have that right.”
The Philadelphia Probation and Parole department currently supervises 35,785 people. There are 11,705 people in the city are on state parole supervision. (It is possible to be on state and county probation concurrently.)
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