Target: U.S. Congress
Goal: Extend felons the right to vote in America.
Since our country was founded, most states have denied the right to vote to those currently or previously having been convicted of a felony. Today, because of a rampant increase in incarceration rates, an estimated 5.85 million Americans — one out of every forty — have currently or permanently lost the right to vote. By taking away their stake in our democracy, we are taking away a very important tie into the world of being a contributing citizen. If it is truly our goal to reintegrate these people back into our society, they should be given the right to shape the society they will re-enter through their vote.
It is not just those incarcerated for a felony that are affected. Fifteen states don’t allow prisoners in or out of prison to vote while on parole or on probation. Thirteen other states take voting rights away permanently if someone is convicted of a felony which, in some cases, can be regained after a lengthy appeals process.
Behind this disenfranchisement is, at least in part, the idea that those in prison are incapable of making informed decisions. However, when Canada was in the process of extending the right to vote to all citizens in prison, their polling found that inmates as a whole were well-informed politically. In addition, a study from the University of Minnesota found that felons who voted were less likely to commit crimes again.
Ex-prisoner Joe Loya said it very well when discussing felon disenfranchisement and its’ effects. “I supposed that the opposite of the virulently anti-social criminal is an optimistic civic-minded citizen.” If we want to encourage felons to reform, we should give them an equal stake in the society they are supposed to be affecting. By signing this petition, you are urging Congress to do just that.
Dear Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner,
Today 5.85 million Americans — about one in forty — are either currently or permanently denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction. African Americans are disproportionately affected; approximately 13% of African American men are disenfranchised on this criteria. I am writing you this letter to urge you to extend the right to vote to all citizens, in prison or not.
By taking away their stake in our democracy, we are taking away their incentive to reintegrate into our society. A study from the University of Minnesota found that felons who voted were less likely to commit crimes again.
Ex-prisoner Joe Loya said it perfectly: “I supposed that the opposite of the virulently anti-social criminal is an optimistic civic-minded citizen.” Please help reintegrate these people by giving them a voice in shaping the society we want them to join.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: Alcatraz via Bay City Guide