AURORA, Colo. — A new state law took effect in July allowing people on parole in Colorado to register to vote for the first time. Previously, they had to wait for their sentence to be complete before registering and voting.

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Brandon McAllister was just released from prison after serving time for a burglary. He’s working with the Second Chance Center in Aurora to get his life back on track. On Tuesday, Election Day, that meant registering to vote and then casting a ballot.

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“It feels like you don’t matter to society,” he said of parolees previously not being able to register. “Now that I am out and able to vote, I feel excited about it. Like I am an actual citizen again.”

There are roughly 11,400 parolees in Colorado and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform and other advocates have been working in the months since the law took effect to register them to vote. The Secretary of State’s office now mandates that all county jails provide voter registration information to people released to parole.

“When you’re a citizen coming out of incarceration, you’re expected to pay taxes, you’re expected to get a job, expected to get housing, you’re expected to contribute. And part of that expectation should be the restoration of your civil rights. Which is to vote,” said Juston Cooper, Deputy Director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC).

CCJRC, which is also a voter registration drive, has worked with a number of organizations to register 200 parolees with the goal of registering 2,000 by the 2020 general election.

“Contrary to popular belief, they are very excited to vote. They do follow politics, they do follow elections. Regardless of their circumstance,” said Cooper.

McAllister, in his fourth day on parole, is voicing his concerns with the criminal justice system.

“I feel good about where we’re headed. I feel there could be a lot more changes still,” he said after completing his registration online. 

McAllister said he was leaving the Second Chance Center to cast his ballot before polls closed on Tuesday.

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