Voter Registration For Felons And 18 Year Olds

There has been some talk lately about voter registration being less important than protesting because of the high number of African Americans who are offenders and cannot vote. The thinking is that protests will raise the consciousness of America and that’s how The Great Disenfranchisement will end.

I disagree. Registering voters, educating voters, and getting them to the polls is how we make change. We cannot wait for offenders to become voters.

I’m not suggesting that protestors stop protesting. It just makes me sad to see lots of missed opportunities right now for change. We have the greatest ability to make a difference by exercising  our right to vote in local elections.

The voting rights for felons issue came up today while trying to register voters. 7th Ward Independent Democrats began our 2015 City Primary Voter Registration Drive this weekend. Before we registered voters, it was important for us to know…

According to the Missouri Secretary of State,

Upon completion of your sentence and probation or parole, you are eligible to vote in elections. Individuals who have been convicted of an election offense, whether a felony or misdemeanor, are not allowed to vote.

According to the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, in 2013, there were 47,543 offenders on Probation and 15,996 offenders on Parole in Missouri. None can register to vote.

I would argue that if you want offenders to be law-abiding ex-offenders and contributing members of a community, enfranchising them provides some important dignity, for we are all equal at the polls, and reaffirms that all members of a community bear responsibility for the present and future of their community.

For crying out loud, Maine and Vermont allow their incarcerated offenders to vote and it has yet to bring about the Apocalypse.

Do I have much faith that the Missouri General Assembly is going to pass legislation in the immediate future permitting felons on probation and parole to vote? No.

Should we give up on voter registration in St. Louis because a significant percentage of our citizens have been disenfranchised? No.

For every offender on probation or parole, there is likely at least one parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, partner, child of voting age who is not registered to vote.

In some wards, including the City’s 7th Ward, or townships, the families of offenders can make a difference in who is elected alderman or councilman. Elect enough aldermen and councilmen committed to enfranchising offenders and they can make a difference in the election of state legislators, mayors, county executives/commissioners, and their agendas in Jefferson City. And that’s how together we make change.

If you’d like to help us register voters in the 7th Ward, email me at stlcity7thward@aol.com or call 314-436-5311.

Another issue that came up during today’s voter registration, the 18 Year Old Vote.

According to the Missouri Secretary of State, you can register and vote if you are at least 17 years and 6 months of age and will be age 18 by Election Day. In the case of the upcoming St. Louis City Primary Election, if you will be 18 years old by March 3rd, you can register and vote in the next election.

Do St. Louis City Public Schools provide voter registration in our high schools? If not, they should. Each report card should come with Voter Registration Information. It’s a great idea but not mine. A nice lady named Willa passed the idea along to us today.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

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