Commentary

10.19.15

Voting: Civil Death, Misinformation, and Marginalization

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Handcuffs at the ballot box

To vote in the United States, you must be a citizen and 18 years or older. However, in some states citizens are stripped of their right to vote permanently. Luckily, Ohio is not one of those states.

Who are these citizens robbed of their right to participate in democracy?

People with criminal convictions—that’s who. Despite that fact that people have served their sentences, many are prohibited from voting once they leave jail or prison and most are kept from voting while incarcerated.

The U.S. is internationally regarded as the beacon of democracy. We lead efforts around the world to encourage free and open elections. Simultaneously, as the U.S. promotes democracy elsewhere, it is also the only western nation that permits lifetime voting bans for people with criminal convictions and also incarcerates the most people in the world.

Voter disenfranchisement is a form of ‘civil death’ where an individual who is naturally alive may be subject to the loss of civil rights imposed on them for a criminal conviction.

Many around the country are working to fight ‘civil death’ sentences.

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, following the successful restoration of voting rights to 60,000 Californians recently said, “While some may see this as a struggle simply for voting rights, formerly incarcerated activists see it as something much larger—a demand for the fundamental acknowledgement of our citizenship.”

How are Ohioans impacted?

Read our blog, One Voice, One Vote: Leading With Conviction

Read our blog, Don’t Be Confused! People With Criminal Convictions Can Vote in Ohio

Read our blog, Vote: Let’s Get Free!

Read our blog, The “Felon Factory” and the Voting Block

It is estimated that nearly 6 million Americans are barred from voting due to a criminal conviction.

Although Ohioans cannot vote while they are incarcerated for a felony conviction, they can vote upon release as long as long as they re-register with their new address.

Unfortunately, because so many people around the country are systemically marginalized and disenfranchised, many mistakenly believe that Ohioans with criminal convictions cannot vote. But that is not true.

Though the voter registration deadline has passed, voter education and empowerment never ends. With a presidential election coming up in 2016, now is the time to encourage people with criminal convictions to register to vote and participate in their democracy.

Spread the word that people with criminal convictions can vote in Ohio. Show people what democracy looks like by sharing voting rights information with everyone you know and those you don’t.

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