A group of formerly incarcerated New Yorkers recently traveled to Ohio with one goal, reports Voice of America: to inform Ohio residents with felony convictions of their voting rights.
Felony disenfranchisement provisions vary from state to state, and in Ohio, a key swing state in the upcoming presidential election, people with felony convictions can vote as soon as they are released from prison. Unlike in New York, they don’t have to wait until they have also completed parole.
“I can’t vote, so let me try to encourage at least five other people — family members and friends — by talking about political issues and how they affect us. And why you should vote,” said group member Kenneth Inniss. Inniss, who is 56, has not voted in a U.S. election since 1984, when he first went to prison for a felony conviction. He must wait one more year until he has completed parole to regain his voting rights.
The Sentencing Project, a group working to promote a fair criminal justice system, says 6 million Americans are denied the right to vote in the upcoming election because of felony convictions.
Many states do not allow individuals to vote until they have completed parole and, in most cases, an additional period of probation. Twelve other states deny voting rights to some or all released felons permanently. Only two U.S. states — Maine and Vermont — extend voting rights to convicted felons even while they are in prison.
But then there are cases like Ohio, where persons with felony convictions cannot vote while incarcerated but automatically regain the right upon release. But many of those affected are unaware of this.
For Inniss and his fellow parolees, this has presented a unique opportunity to effect change in a critical battleground state this election season and empower others, regardless of their own ability to vote.
Read the full article on Voice of America.