Statement of Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian regarding civic engagement and voting for incarcerated individuals

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Ensuring that any incarcerated individual who is eligible to vote has the ability to do so has been – and remains – a top priority for myself and the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office (MSO).

I grew up watching my father – Waltham’s City Clerk – run elections in our hometown and assist colleagues in several other communities. As a first generation American and son of Armenian refugees, his passion for civic engagement and voting made an indelible mark on me. That is why access to voting is foundational to my belief in public service and why I am proud of the multiple ways we have increased access to voting at the MSO.

Through internal efforts and external partnerships, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office has placed a strong emphasis on the importance of civic engagement – providing those in our custody with ongoing opportunities to learn about the importance of voting and how to exercise their right to do so.

During both the 2016 and 2018 election cycles the MSO actively engaged with the League of Women Voters (LWV) to conduct voter education drives, register new voters, and assist those interested in receiving absentee ballots. While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented LWV volunteers from visiting prior to the 2020 election, MSO staff worked directly with eligible incarcerated individuals to facilitate their ability to vote.

In addition, the MSO has fully incorporated voter registration into our reentry programming. Our staff works diligently to ensure that returning citizens understand their voting rights and the value of civic engagement to a full and successful reentry into society. Since November 2019, we have helped 192 individuals register to vote as part of the reentry process. Many of those who registered did not know they would be eligible to vote upon their release and several were registering for the first time in their lives.

I look forward to continuing to work with members of the Legislature, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, local elections officials, and community partners to ensure all eligible individuals have the opportunity to cast ballots who wish to do so.