Officials approved an in-person polling location at the Dallas County Jail last spring after only allowing absentee ballots that could be requested through mail, Bolts Magazine reports. Activists called for the change even as a county commissioner called the issue “less than last on my list,” and the Dallas County Sheriff, Marian Brown, said in a video posted on social media that people were voting, but “It’s just that they’re not doing so at a polling station.” She also questioned the feasibility of a polling place in the video. After Brown posted the video, only one person voted from jail in the November midterm elections. Roughly 6,000 people are held inside the jail on the edge of downtown Dallas, and many are likely to be able to vote. Most people in the jail are incarcerated pretrial. Dallas activists had asked for a polling place to be installed at the jail for last year’s midterm elections.
The polling place was approved in time for the May municipal elections. “This is something we have actively been working on for some time,” Brown said in another post. “We are pleased to be able to expand voting for our inmates in Dallas County Jail.” Twenty people voted in person at this new polling place on May 6. An additional ten returned an absentee ballot from the jail. While an increase from November, especially for generally low-turnout local elections, the numbers are still pale compared to the county’s immense jail population. Brown said in her announcement that her office would use the spring’s low-profile elections to iron out any logistical issues. Nearly all jails make incarcerated people who want to vote request an absentee ballot through the mail and then send it back, which can be tricky given tight deadlines and mail delays.