by Voice of the Experienced
People with criminal records face a lot of gatekeeping every day. From employers to landlords to the state government, formerly incarcerated people who are back in their communities are judged and rejudged all the time, despite having served their sentences. By being so stigmatized and having inalienable rights such as the right to vote taken away from us, we are being pushed to behave anti-socially. This legislative session, there are many bills that could alter this reality–some for better, some for worse. Here are two that are up to bat next Wednesday, April 11. Help us take action now!
What We’re Fighting For: HB 265
House Bill 265 would stop disenfranchising people under community supervision (otherwise known as those on probation or parole). Specifically, it would give voting rights back to anyone who has not been incarcerated for the past five years, including:
Send a letter to your Reps. NOW asking them to vote YES on HB 265!
HB 265 would restore the fundamental birthright of citizenship for most of the 70,000 people currently disenfranchised in Louisiana. Although the bill does not go as far as our lawsuit, it is an important step we believe the legislature is ready to take to put an end to this cruel and unusual punishment of suspending citizenship.
What We’re Fighting Against:HB 417
Though voting is a right, many try to frame it as a “privilege” reserved for certain people. This is the message behind HB 417, which we strongly oppose. HB 417 creates gatekeepers of citizenship by, first, only allowing people convicted of nonviolent (v. violent) crimes to vote, and, second, requiring them to complete 200 hours of community service before being eligible to vote. In prison, people are not treated differently based on their conviction being “violent” or “nonviolent.” People who never went to prison but are on probation are not treated differently by their probation officer due to the nature of their crime. Why should the right to vote be treated any differently? This is an unconstitutional discretion under the Louisiana Constitution and also creates a logistical nightmare regarding where one does their service and who is eligible to sign off on its completion.
People join VOTE because they know we want to build a better society. We want rehabilitation and restoration of the community, and that is the only form of discrimination (read: discernment) we use. The only question we ask is: are people acting in a constructive or destructive manner? People who want to vote are being denied by the current legislature, and that helps nobody. Let’s convince these legislators that they can reverse the sorry history of disenfranchisement in Louisiana, and instead encourage people to lead positive, pro-social, community-building lives. Thank you!