If they are eligible to vote, individuals in youth correctional facilities should be able to cast ballots. That’s the thinking of Representative Paul Rosenthal, who is pushing a bill that would make clear the voting rights of those in Division of Youth Corrections custody.
The proposal is personal: As a teacher at one of these facilities, Rosenthal has seen firsthand how frustrating it is when eligible students can’t vote. “This is pretty commonsense,” Rosenthal says. “I’m only putting into statute what is currently practiced.” Rosenthal, a Democrat and first-time lawmaker who now represents parts of Denver, explains that the standard practice in Colorado is that individuals in youth correctional facilities who meet all the legal requirements to vote are allowed to vote. But, he says, confusion around their rights and what documentation they need makes it even harder for them to obtain what the paperwork they need in time to vote.
Rosenthal believes that by putting the general practice into law would make the system easier to understand for these individuals, their families and their case workers or facility administrators. If passed, Colorado statute would explicitly state the right to register and vote and outline what is required for these individuals to do so.
“During the last election, I noticed that so many kids were asking me, ‘How am I able to vote?'” says Rosenthal, who is a teacher at Ridge View Academy, a contract facility of the state’s Division of Youth Corrections, or DYC; the agency falls under the Human Services department. “I wanted to make sure that if I’m [registering them], that it is legal.”