Felony Forfeit: Restoring the right to vote
Manny Mejias doesn’t feel like a full citizen. At 15 years old, he was convicted of first-degree murder. During his 20 years in prison he took stock of his life and grew into an adult vastly different from the teen who committed an awful crime.
He was released 10 years ago. Now he works for Pima County, connecting formerly incarcerated individuals with the resources they need to reintegrate into society. He said when someone first gets out of prison, restoring their voting rights takes a back burner to finding employment and a place to live, both of which can be difficult from former felons, who are barred from many opportunities.
Mejias did his time. He’s giving back to his community. But he still can’t vote.
In Arizona, anyone convicted of a felony has their civil rights revoked, regardless of the crime. In 2016, 4.25 percent of the population, or about 221,000 people, couldn’t vote because they had their rights revoked. That number is higher than all our neighboring states. But many disenfranchised people are eligible to restore their civil rights.
The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, legal nonprofit based in Washington D.C., found that many people, nationwide who were eligible to restore their voting rights hadn’t because they were confused by their state’s voting laws. Some people just thought if you have a felony, you can’t vote again. The nonprofit launched the Restore Your Vote project to correct that notion and help people restore their civil rights.
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