Mecklenburg County sheriff partners with nonprofit to register inmates to vote

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide local mayors, City Council members, school board members and whether to raise the sales tax by a quarter of a cent.

[What you need to know: Meck County's quarter-cent proposed sales tax hike]

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden wants eligible people inside his detention center to have a say.

"We are a progressive agency," McFadden said. "We look to do things differently. The slogan is "We are the difference.'"

McFadden says in talking to inmates, many assumed they can't vote because they are behind bars.

In North Carolina, you lose your right to cast a ballot only if you are serving a felony sentence. People awaiting trial or who are guilty of a misdemeanor can vote.

"A lot of them did not know they have the right to vote so now they are educating other residents," McFadden said. "Hopefully, when they go back into their communities, they will be advocates in their communities and hold us elected officials accountable."

McFadden partnered with the nonprofit You Can Vote.

The group came to the jail to educate inmates on their rights and register people to vote.

According to McFadden, 114 people are now eligible to cast a ballot either by mail or in person if their release date was before or on Election Day.

"This is very important to me," he said. "It is very important about human dignity. It builds trust, it builds relationships and all of that filters back into the community."

McFadden says his goal is to have a candidate forum inside the jail in 2020. He points out races have been decided by 100 votes or less.