Virginia is one state that recently gave its felons the right to vote back!
Although most felons can't vote, prison populations are accounted for when distributing political representation across geographical regions. This accounting is called "prison based gerrymandering" and is, arguably, taxation without representation.
The way states approach disenfranchising felons vary tremendously. In Maine and Vermont, for example, felons never lose their right to vote. However, in most states, felons are disenfranchised until the completion of their parole or probation, which can be a such lengthy time (just ask Meek Mill) that it practically results in total disenfranchisement.
However, Virginia has stepped up to the plate and are changing these unfair laws.
Governor Terry Mcauliffe (D), restored over 500,000 people's right to vote after they lost that right because of a felony conviction. Of those who lost their voting rights, more than 1 in 5 are African Americans, according to a 2016 estimate.
Some individuals who had their right to vote restored recently took to the polls. A few were voting for the first time in their lives,
Here’s what they had to say about casting a ballot:
Theodore Dortch, 37
“I got my rights restored back this year. I never voted before. How I feel: I’m a taxpayer, I go to work every day and it feels good to be some positive today. I said I pay taxes and I never got to vote. They ain’t go hand in hand. I pay the government, but they won’t let me vote. Today’s a special day for me.”
LaVaughn Williams, 55
“Just bubbling in those little bubbles gave me such a sense of power and excitement. I mean, I just can’t explain the feeling that I feel right now. I’m just so elated. I hope that my vote makes a difference. ... I never thought that I would be voting. I never thought I would be in this situation right now. If you had asked me two years ago, I would’ve said, ‘No, I will never vote.’ But once I got those rights back, once I got that letter stating that I could vote, I made it my duty to be here and to put my little bubbles, and I have to emphasize those little bubbles, and cast my vote.”
Brianna Ross, 53
“I remember way back in 1993 when the judge told me, ‘You can’t ever vote.’ I didn’t know what that meant. But it made me feel empty. It made me feel unimportant, but I voted today and it can happen for you.”
We think it is wonderful that we live in a democratic nation that has states which attempt to bridge the gap for all individuals, even those who have made past mistakes. Overall, allowing everyone to contribute to society as full members, ensures no one is treated as a forever outsider.
All in all, nice job Virginia! And nice job to the other states that have finally given felons their inalienable right to vote back!