LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- We're less than a month away from Indiana's voter registration deadline. Now community activists are doing everything they can do get eligible voters registered.
Their latest effort is a billboard located at the intersection of 9th and Duncan Rd. The billboard lays out voter rights specifically for people who may have found themselves in the criminal justice system. That's why it's not a coincidence it's located just down the street from the Tippecanoe County Jail.
"We just want people to know if you can vote we want to help you register to vote so that you will vote," said Melissa Gruver, chapter organizing director for the Younger Women's Task Force of Greater Lafayette.
Indiana is one of 16 states that allow people to vote even if they're awaiting trial, on probation or parole, in-home detention or have ever been incarcerated. Gruver who helped organize a voter right's demonstration under the billboard Monday said the goal is to help clear up misconceptions surrounding voting rights for local people living with criminal records.
"As we go out to register voters, we run into at least three to five people each time that think that they are not able to register and vote because of prior incarceration," said Gruver.
Members of The Working Hoosiers Vote Coalition, which includes the YWTF, Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies, Showing Up for Racial Justice of Greater Lafayette, and Greater Lafayette Indivisible, teamed up with the ACLU of Indiana and the local NAACP chapters to help fund this billboard. It's intentionally located down the street from the Tippecanoe County jail to make sure inmates and their visitors know their voting rights.
"When people are released we want this to be the first thing they see, like, as soon as you're released those rights are restored so we want them to see that very clearly before that October 5th registration deadline.
"We want folks to notice that Black Americans, in particular, are targeted by voter disenfranchisement laws," said Vanessa Pacheco, member of YWTF and a caucus of the group called 'The Collective,' which specifically represents Black and Brown people in the community.
According to Pacheco, one in every 13 African-American has lost their voting rights, the average for non-Black citizens is one in every 56. She said there are a number of factors for this.
"Poverty is something that disproportionately affects Black and Brown people and as a result, those very same people might be criminalized more frequently," said Pacheco. "Those very same folks might be put in violent situations, where, again, they end up in a prison pipeline."
Event speaker Frederick Williams understands this first hand. He was previously incarcerated, now spending his time out of jail speaking awareness on voter rights to others.
"We are their front line of defense when it comes to prison reform, we know the living situations," said Williams. "The ballot will always be more powerful than the bullet and the ballot will always speak louder than words."
He hopes people who are not in jail but have gone through and/or are currently in the criminal justice system see the value in their vote this election season.
"All of our voices are equal," said Willaims. "We all pay taxes with the little bit that we do have. We are a small portion to the community but when we all come together, we need everybody, we need one body of change."
You can register to vote here. The deadline is Oct. 5. The billboard will also stay up until that date.