Restoring Voting Rights To All Incarcerated Individuals

Currently there are only two U.S states that allow incarcerated persons to vote from prison
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Photos: YouTube\MIT

Local organizer and advocate for incarcerated people Chaplain Victor Pate has dedicated much of his life to helping those incarcerated, as well as those recently incarcerated re-entering society. Today he is focusing much of his attentions on lifting laws that restrict incarcerated individuals from voting.

Chaplain Victor Pate

Currently there are only two U.S states that allow incarcerated persons to vote from prison[1.] In New York the right to vote is restored after release. Most other states restore the right to vote after prison and parole. However, there are currently 9 states that may revoke the right to vote for certain incarcerated individuals or felony offenses permanently.

Pates’ team proposed the New Yorkers for Voting Rights Restoration bill at the legislative caucus weekend April 8, 2022 to senate and assembly caucus members. The bill is currently active in NY senate under senate bill S3073, and NY assembly under assembly bill A6646. The bill directly affects NY state constitution article 2 section 1 and 3. “It’s a two-pronged approach” says Pate.

The first part of the plan is to have the bill passed in both NY senate and assembly where it must be voted on for two consecutive years. After this the fight is heading to congress for a federal constitutional amendment to voting rights for incarcerated individuals.

Pate estimates this will be about a five-year fight, assuming the bill passes in NY first according to schedule. While the bill is still in committee, Pate and his team have turned some of their efforts to spreading awareness as many are not aware that this bill is currently in committee. Pate strongly believes that “nobody should ever lose their rights to vote”.

Pate himself was once incarcerated, spending a total of 15 years behind bars. The treatment he received and what he witnessed has played a pivotal role in his philanthropic work surrounding incarcerated individuals. This is “a continuation of Jim Crow and disenfranchisement”, Pate makes this remark in regards to mass incarceration and an overwhelming majority of incarcerated people being Black and Latino.

Jim Crow laws made it legal to systematically target and marginalize African Americans by way of denying rights to vote, gain income, or attain an education. Those who attempted to defy these laws were ruthlessly punished and imprisoned. The laws began immediately after abolishing the 13th amendment.

Suffrage laws that strip away the right to vote are believed by many to be a continuation of a dark tradition in which Black and brown people are criminalized and suppressed. These suffrage laws, an echo of Jim Crow, are racist in origin and the need to eradicate them is ever pressing.

Through his continued efforts and support of those incarcerated and those not, we may soon be witness to a historic moment where the right to vote is restored to all incarcerated people not only in New York State but the entire country over.

Cited Information [1]: https://felonvoting.procon.org/state-felon-voting-laws/

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