Archive for "voting-rights"

Be Ready by November (pt. 3)

Published by T. J. Holmes on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm.

I’m following up with more thoughts about what’s happening with voting rights laws in this country. This post goes directly to the brothers and sisters with criminal records because “time served” doesn’t always mean “rights restored.”  Here’s how voting rights changes could affect you – and what you can do about it.

Voting Rights for Felons

According to the reform group The Sentencing Project, more than 5 million people could be denied the right to vote because of a felony conviction. Most states allow felons to vote, but the rules are different in each state, and the process of restoring voting rights can be laborious and confusing. In some states, voting rights for convicted felons are not automatically restored after the sentence is over. In some states, felons with certain types of convictions aren’t allowed to vote. But then, in two other states, an incarcerated felon is allowed to vote. The laws are all over the place.

So, this Brennan Center link is a good place to start:  It shows you a simple map to help you understand what the general rules are in each state.

And, this Nonprofit Vote website is a great resource with a more detailed breakdown of the laws for felons in each state.

Finally, here is another Sentencing Project link that gives a full list of names, email address, and phone numbers for people in each state that can answer your questions and help you get your voting rights restored.

There’s still time to find out what you can do in your state to get yourself registered.  Remember when it comes to your right to vote — Don’t Sleep!

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Be Ready by November (pt. 2)

Published by T. J. Holmes on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm.

I wrote earlier, “There’s an organized effort to suppress the vote of people who generally vote for Democrats. There, I said it. Now…what are we going to do about it?” In this post, I want to talk directly to young people, especially our students out there – because your rights really could be at risk.

Voting Rights for Students

Young people, you really are going to have to be on top of things. Many changes to state voter ID laws will affect you. In some cases, a college ID won’t be accepted at the polling place. For instance, a new law in Pennsylvania requires an expiration date on your photo ID in order to vote. Well, guess what? Most colleges in Pennsylvania don’t put expiration dates on student IDs. If you’re not paying attention, things like that can keep you from voting.

Again, the NCLS link has a breakdown of the accepted forms of ID.

Also, you can go to this page on the NYU Brennan Center for Justice website. Click on your state, and you’ll be taken to a page with specific information about student residency and ID requirements.

This election year, one of the biggest lessons may be what’s happening off-campus.  Take time right now to check your ID and get yourself registered. When it comes to your right to vote — Don’t Sleep!

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Be Ready by November

Published by T. J. Holmes on Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 9:47 am.

There’s an organized effort to suppress the vote of people who generally vote for Democrats. There, I said it. Now…what are we going to do about it?

For now, I’ll leave it to others to fight in state legislatures and in the courts to overturn the plethora of laws put in place over the last few years that have changed the rules on early voting, changed the rules on voter registration, and changed the rules on what forms of ID are accepted at polling places. Those are fights worth fighting because these new laws are expected to disproportionately affect minority voters. But at this point, it’s too late to get many of these laws reversed in time for Election Day.

So, for now, you and I have to stomach the fact that the rules are going to be different this November, and we have to play by the new rules. What’s the alternative? Not voting? THAT IS NOT AN OPTION. Yes, we will all have to be a little more diligent than usual. Remember, no one has taken away your right to vote, rather voting has become a little more difficult and complicated in some cases than it’s been in recent years. We have four months to educate ourselves and prepare. And, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Voter registration

Start here: the Election Assistance Commission . This link takes you directly to a form you should fill out and mail in if you need to register to vote. The link also includes a list of addresses in each state where you should send the form to get registered.

Another option: do a simple Google search. Type in “register to vote” followed by your state, i.e. “register to vote Georgia.” The first or second result you get will be for your state’s election board or secretary of state. Click on that link to be taken to a website that will give you state-specific instructions for voter registration and eligibility requirements.

Voter ID Laws

Next up, the National Conference of State Legislatures. This link takes you directly to a page on the NCSL website that has the most comprehensive and coherent breakdown of state laws regarding voter ID.  A lot of changes to voter ID laws have been implemented in the past few years, and this site is constantly updating with the latest changes to laws in every state. It also clearly breaks down existing voter ID requirements in each state. And, it’s all on one web page. This is a great resource.

I’m going to write next about how these voting rights changes are affecting some specific folks in our community.  For now, please check on your own registration today.  When it comes to your right to vote – Don’t Sleep!

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