When I met my husband Al in 2007, he told me he was an ex-felon and had been off probation for over 10 years. He said he had not voted once in those ten years because he thought he wasn’t allowed to.
As an organizer, I had done work registering folks to vote and informing them of their rights for over a decade. When I told Al that he could have voted the moment he was done with his probation, he was so angry. No one had ever told him that he didn’t lose his right to vote forever. He also never got a notice saying “your voting rights have been restored.”
I remember him asking a lot of questions about elections. He was so proud when he cast his vote for the first time in 2007.
Since then, Al has made it his mission to tell ex-felons he knows and those he has just met that they have the right to vote if they have completed their probation. At every election, including the primary, he is up early and rushing me out the door to go vote. He does everything he can to make voting accessible to everyone. One time when we went to vote, there were no “Vote Here” signs by the front door. Al let them know and asked the volunteers to get some signs up right away so that people would not get discouraged and leave. Before we left, he checked again to be sure the signs were easily visible at both entrances. He said as we were leaving,
If you make it too hard for people, especially people of color, they may give up and go home. We can’t have that because every vote is important.”
Al knows what it’s like to lose the right to vote and to have rules put in front of you that discourage you from voting or add more confusion to the process. So, Al – like me – opposes the Voter ID Amendment that was proposed to the Constitution this November. He says “this amendment is just one more barrier to go through and knocking down barriers is exhausting!” Citizens have the right to vote, and we should be doing everything we can to make sure they can exercise that right in our democracy.