This week, JustLeadershipUSA, along with many of our partners and allies, signed the National Right 2 Vote Campaign’s Open Letter to Presidential Candidates to demand a public commitment to end felony disenfranchisement and to call for the restoration of voting rights for all citizens.
Since the founding of the United States, millions of U.S. citizens have been prohibited from voting or had their voting rights stripped as a means of reducing political power especially among Black and brown communities. In the 2016 election, 7.4% of all African American adults were disenfranchised because of a felony conviction — a rate 4x higher than the rest of the population. In an election decided by less than 80,000 votes, a total of over 6,000,000 citizens with felony convictions were refused the right to vote.
The subversion of voting rights is a subversion of the democratic principles this country claims to hold dear. The disenfranchisement of entire communities ensures that our voices will not be heard, our concerns will not be addressed, and our elected representatives will not be elected to represent us.
Through the fierce advocacy of directly impacted communities, the issue of voting rights for people convicted of felony offenses is gaining more attention than ever. This fact was stated loudly and definitively last year when Amendment 4 passed in Florida with 65% of the vote — restoring voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians. This momentous achievement was highlighted once again as Desmond Meade, the formerly incarcerated leader of the Amendment 4 movement, was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. We congratulate him on this recognition that lifts all boats!
The majority of people in the U.S. agree that people with felony records should be able to vote. States including Maine and Vermont have joined countries around the world in restoring voting rights for people not only when they leave prison — but while they are in prison as well.As we seek to further transform this country’s criminal legal system, we must address the countless systemic harms the U.S. inflicts on people with records when a second-class citizenship is an accepted norm.We at JustLeadershipUSA know that “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Restoring voting rights for all ensures that currently and formerly incarcerated people will no longer be on the menu.
Demand whichever presidential candidate you decide to support commits to ending felony disenfranchisement and will ensure the Right 2 Vote for everyone.
DeAnna Hoskins, President/CEO of JustLeadershipUSA
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