These are two very valid questions regarding the rights of ex-offenders! As most people know, the right to vote in the United States is a very important one. It is a right which should never be taken lightly or taken for granted by ANY legal citizen of this country, especially if people have fought and lobbied to ensure that such rights are restored to ex-offender citizens upon their release. Yet many ex-offenders living in various parts of America unfortunately are unaware or unsure whether or not they can register to vote in their respective state!
An offender is told so much bullshit while serving his or her time behind bars. The longer the time served, the more bullshit that is fed. They are fed even more bullshit right before and upon their release; so much so that often it is very difficult to discern truth from fiction. I can understand certain things like “eligibility to vote” not being heard during an inmate’s out-processing or if he/she did hear it, then such information slipping the mind. Registering to vote is normally not at the top of ANY ex-offender’s list of priorities upon release (if ever)! For the ex-offender, that list includes (in no particular order): housing, clothing, medical needs, cash in the pocket, meeting parole or probation obligations and much more. Just the same though, the probation or parole officer should give voting eligibility information to his client anyway, particularly during an election year. Family and friends ought to do the same. And for that matter, even before a felon is released, I think those “jailhouse lawyers” should have done it, too! Re-involvement in the learning of and the decision-making actions of social and political issues is a healthy process of any ex-offenders reintegration into general society. Now, of course, there are ex-offenders who are very much aware of their voting eligibility. However, in my opinion, that awareness is only as good as their willingness to exercise their restored voting rights… meaning, that ex-offender has registered to vote and IS actively participating in the election process.
Here in Michigan, ex-offenders CAN and SHOULD register to vote and, upon doing that, ex-offenders CAN and SHOULD vote! If you are an Michigan ex-offender, if you are awaiting arraignment or trial, OR you know someone who is, PLEASE READ THIS taken directly from the Michigan Secretary of State’s website. Another, clearer breakdown of the law is here.
I would encourage my blog readers living in other states to check the laws of their respective state to determine the specific voting laws regarding ex-offenders living in that state. To help you, here is a good website listing briefly, by state, the eligibility of voting rights for ex-offenders.
Ex-offenders are people, too! They’ve paid their debt to society and thus deserve every right and opportunity to rejoin the normal life enjoyed by general society. They also deserve to have a say in how an issue is decided and/or to have a say in determining which political candidate(s) – for ANY office – will best serve their interests.
Let’s get the word out so that EVERYONE has a chance to be heard in the voting process!