Felony Disenfranchisement Featured Stories
Marlo Hargrove and David Waller
On July 1, 2007, 52,000 Maryland citizens previously barred from the voting booth because of their felony convictions regained their right to vote because of a recent change in law. Several Baltimore City residents gathered at the Baltimore Board of Elections Monday July 2nd to submit their voter registration applications to exercise their new rights. The stories of two of these newly enfranchised people are profiled here.
Nothing worthwhile comes easy – that’s the adage Kimberly Haven said she’s adopted after having personally fought for six years to restore the rights of formerly incarcerated individuals. With the support of advocates and organizations, Haven’s work has brought the Senate and House to approve the “Voting Registration Protection Act” which Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s signed on April 24, 2007.
Denver Schimming was a leader in the campaign that successfully pressured the Tennessee Legislature this year to approve a bill that simplifies the voting restoration process for people who have completed a felony sentence. As a previously incarcerated person who had his voting rights restored in 1996, Mr. Schimming appreciates the power and importance of voting. His years in prison taught him that the criminal justice system could change only if impacted people spoke out. After his incarceration, voting was one of his highest priorities.
Because of a felony conviction when he was 20 years old, Andres Idarraga was told he could not vote until his 58th birthday, a 31 year wait. Until just recently, Rhode Island law prohibited individuals with felony convictions from voting until they completed parole and probation. But Andres, a strong advocate and role model in his community, helped change that law and can now exercise his right to vote.