Ex-felons can reclaim voting rights, but hundreds of thousands don’t

Tucson resident Danny Howe made sure to vote in this election – because Howe knows what it’s like to have that right taken away.

“Most people just don’t know,” Howe said. “Once you’ve been convicted of a felony you’re a felon your whole life.” Howe is one of the lucky ones, a former convict who was able to get his right to vote restored. But there were hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who were not able to cast a ballot this year because of a felony conviction, even though the process of getting voting rights restored in Arizona is within reach.

According to 2016 data from the Sentencing Project, Arizona had 221,170 individuals who had been disenfranchised due to felony convictions, the ninth-highest number in the country and the eighth-highest as a percent of the state’s voting-age population.

Victor Cervantes and Hannah Recht spent several months in Arizona this fall trying to educate felons about their rights. The two worked with the Restore Your Vote Campaign, a project of the Campaign Legal Center, using phone lists from other civic and voting rights groups to reach out to hundreds of former inmates.

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