Five million formerly incarcerated people in America must overcome a vast assortment of obstacles to enjoy the privilege of voting, reported Vice Newshttps://www.vice.com/en/article/7kvx3z/this-is-how-hard-it-is-to-vote-after-youve-left-prison.
“When you’re unable to vote, on top of all those other issues like the hardships of searching for a job and housing, it just reinforces the feeling of being a second-class citizen that a lot of people express feeling after being released,” said Gicola Lane, an advocate for voter restoration laws in Tennessee.
Countless policies and laws are set in place that cause feelings of dismay in formerly incarcerated people. The stress associated with feeling like a second-class citizen can cause a person to become frustrated with trying to vote and they revert back to crime, the June 10 story said.
Recently some states are having a change of heart concerning the disenfranchisement their laws and policies cause, allowing people to vote after serving their sentences.
Alabama has shortened its list of felony convictions that bar a person from being able to vote.
In California, a court can find a person with a criminal history is eligible to vote if they’re a United States citizen, a resident of California; 18-years-old or older on Election Day; not currently serving a prison term, and not currently found mentally incompetent.
In Kentucky, people who are released from prison are required to make a direct plea to their state’s governor to have their voting rights restored.
Alonzo Malone, an ex-con from Kentucky, told Vice News that it still bothers him that he was denied the chance to vote twice for the United States’ first Black president, Barack Obama.
He said he felt like he was the Invisible Man like he did not exist.
Florida resident Chandrea McNealy was denied the right to vote at the age of 18 because she was convicted of possessing narcotics. It took her five years to get a job and even longer to be able to vote.
“I felt horrible. It makes you feel like the mistakes you made before you even thought about having children are now going to cause your children to suffer,” said McNealy. “It makes you wonder why. I served my time, I served my debt to society. Why can’t we move on now?”
In Iowa City, Iowa, Eric Harris’ right to vote was revoked after he was sent to prison for possession of marijuana, leaving him unable to vote on the national and local issues he read about. Discontent caused by the many barriers to his reintegration caused him to revert to his former lifestyle. He experienced another brush against the law and barely eluded another prison sentence. After 24 years of being unable to vote, he got his life together.
Malone, McNealy, and Harris petitioned their respective governors to hear their cases and were granted renewed voting rights.
McNealy wanted to vote to make a better life for her child.
The majority of the five million formerly incarcerated people whose voting rights have been stripped are Black, according to the Sentencing Project. For every White person who cannot vote, there are 56 Blacks who have lost their right to vote, the story reported.