Ever since the 2000 election in the United States, the fact that in many states ex-convicts are barred from voting, has become somewhat more known. Rarely covered in the mainstream media, the few investigative reports done on the topic of voter fraud in places like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, revealed that in several cases, people were taken off of voter rolls and labeled as former convicts.
One related issue that even fewer reports or public figures are brave enough to bring forward is the policies in various US states that keep prisoners, parolees, those on probation and those once convicted of the most minor of offenses, from voting. In 10 US states people who have served their sentences and are now out of prison, not on parole or probation, are kept from voting for life. As incarcerated citizens are often stigmatized regardless of their crime or if they’ve already completed their sentence, it would seem the average citizen doesn’t care or see them as deserving of equal rights once they’re back in society. Which translates to very little political pressure to change this policy that so many states have.
On a recent edition of The State We’re In, this was exactly the topic that was explored. Specifically the program looked into how ex-cons feel about not having that right. And, for those who do, what importance they give to having that right. What interested me most was when they briefly touched on studies that have shown that when ex-cons return to society and have their right to vote restored, this can have the effect of making them feel more part of society and responsible for what happens in their community. Click the link above and listen to the segment, a very important question that hardly any people in positions of power are willing to ask.