Felon Voting Rights

Our search for civil rights is far from over, there are still groups for whom such rights are elusive. One, which is a group we don’t often think about, is former felons. In most states they can’t vote after they are released, a phenomenon called felony voter disenfranchisement. Several groups are now involved in working towards reinstating felon’s voting rights, groups such as The Sentencing Project, Campaign to End The New Jim Crow, or the American Friends Service Committee. While there is far from universal agreement about reinstating those rights, there is at present no organized group working against the idea. The opposition comes mainly from politicians or governors delaying or vetoing certain provisions. Reinstating voting rights, advocates say, is a way to reduce inequality and practice democracy. It is also an issue of fairness, a tool to help individuals who have paid their debts to society, rebuild a life and feel part of the society they live in. Some states allow former felons to have their rights reinstated after long forms and procedures, some don’t, some impose lifetime ban, some require petition to the governor, something that may take years and is usually denied. Up until recently when governor Terry McAuliffe restored voting rights to some 200,000 felons, Virginia has had some of the most stringent laws and is also the state where much activity has been taking place such as volunteers like Richard Walker going to malls and other gathering places asking if anyone knows anyone who was a felon who needs their voting rights reinstated. He then helps people fill out forms, but mostly explains what they can do. Most former felons do not know the laws in the state where they live, do not know they may be able to fill out forms. Nationwide, The Sentencing Project estimates, there at 5.8 million ex- felons who could vote. It is also estimated that in the 2000 presidential election, a few such votes might have made the state of Florida vote for Al Gore and changed the course of the election. While some critics say reinstating voting rights is a move that would primarily benefit Democrats, advocates say it is not a question for either Democrats or Republicans, that each person much be seen as an individual.
If the continuing march towards civil rights matters to us, then felon rights ought to be on our radar.

One thought on “Felon Voting Rights”

  1. This is very important, and I feel the need in apersonal way becaause of my own son’s incarceration and his subsequent disenfranchisement.

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