In the United States, millions of Americans are banned from voting due to their criminal record. In Virginia, a group of former felons, who have served their time, have been fighting for their right to head to the polls.
CCTV America’s Andrea Arenas has more on their story. Follow Andrea Arenas on Twitter @AndreArenas1
Former felons are fighting for their rights to voteIn the United States, millions of Americans are banned from voting due to their criminal record. In Virginia, a group of former felons, who have served their time, have been fighting for their right to head to the polls. CCTV America’s Andrea Arenas has more on their story.
Two years ago Kelvin Maurs was released from jail and regained many freedoms.
But as a resident of Virginia, he is still subject to a state law aimed at excluding him from the democratic process, leaving him unable to vote.
In response, he created Arm & Arm, an organization aimed at changing these laws. Maurs’ argument for inclusion is straight forward.
“If I feel a part of an institution, an organization or a nation, I am a whole less likely to go against that institution, organization or nation,” Maurs said.
Laws regarding voting rights for felons vary widely across the U.S. But Virginia is on the extreme end — it is one of three states where former felons are permanently blocked from voting.
Over the past 40 years, the prison population in the U.S. has increased dramatically. This has prevented an estimated 5.8 million people from being able to vote this election season.
These laws impact minorities most, since their rate of imprisonment is disproportionately high compared to whites.
One in every 13 African Americans has lost the right to vote, versus one in every 56 non-black voters.
“The problem that I have, especially with the voting rights, is that I am a convicted felon,” Wein Miles, barbershop owner, said. “I changed my life around, I am positive, I have a barbershop. I am an owner now, and I can’t vote to this day.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has made it a personal campaign to get ex-offenders back in voting booths.
When the Virginia Supreme Court struck down his executive order restoring voting rights to convicted felons, McAuliffe set about “pardoning” ex-offenders individually.
By Election Day in November, McAuliffe aims to clear at least 13,000 felons who’ve attempted to register.
“I am 38 years old and this is going to be the first time I am going to vote,” Licia White, Arm and Arm organizer, said.
Virginia is a so-called “swing state”, where the competition between Republican and Democratic candidates is fierce and neither has a natural edge. It’s where all votes are critical and the votes of felons could help decide who ends up in the White House.