DeAnna Hoskins writes on felony disenfranchisement for Democracy Docket
Writing at Democracy Docket, JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins says:
“Felony disenfranchisement is an issue that rarely makes headlines, but it should concern all Americans who care about democracy and the future of our republic. As of 2022, more than 4.6 million Americans with a felony conviction were disenfranchised — disproportionately Black and Latinx citizens.
“The good news is that, since 1997, 26 states and Washington, D.C. have expanded voting rights to people living with felony convictions, resulting in two million Americans regaining the right to vote. But there is still a long way to go to fully restore the right to vote to all Americans with a felony conviction on their record — and there are forces at work in the form of litigation, legislation and criminalization attempting to roll back the advances that have been made already. …
Millions of Americans living with felony convictions should not be confused about their eligibility or in fear of participating in the electoral process
“In Kentucky, Savvy Shabazz, a 2023 graduate of JustLeadershipUSA’s Leading with Conviction™ (LwC) leadership training program, has been fighting for expanding voting rights restoration after having his own rights restored last year — and being able to vote again for the first time in 20 years. He has personally helped pay the bail for incarcerated people — sometimes as little as $12.50 — in order to help them get to vote. As Savvy says, ‘You’re telling me this person can’t exercise their right to vote because they don’t have any money?’ He adds, ‘It is important for all of us to fight against voter disenfranchisement, because voting is not a privilege, it is a right that we should all have and exercise.’
“In Virginia, the NAACP has been fighting Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration for changing from the partly automatic restoration system used by his predecessors to one they say ‘lacks clear standards for restoring voting rights’ to people with felony convictions who have served their sentences.
“Galen Baughman (LwC 2015) had his voting rights restored in 2021 and participated in several elections in Virginia before discovering — when he went to vote in the primaries this June — that he had been removed from the state voter rolls. Baughman was initially afraid to cast a provisional ballot, because he recalled how Florida authorities had arrested 20 people convicted of felonies who’d believed they were eligible to vote and attempted to in the 2020 election. Ultimately, Baughman did vote by provisional ballot and in July went to court to have his voting rights successfully reinstated.
“But the millions of Americans living with felony convictions should not be confused about their eligibility or in fear of participating in the electoral process or what might happen to them. That fear and hesitation is exactly what the adversaries of voting rights want and are counting on to suppress the power of so many of us.
“Many JustLeadershipUSA leaders are organizing around the country to address this concern.”