In the middle of a nationalized runoff to determine the power dynamic of the U.S. Senate, we all expected it to resemble a battlefield. Nevertheless, those shots about just who should be able to vote hit harder when directed at a population that is already burdened by societal stigmas and systemic barriers. The rehabilitation of rights is a crucial part of the reentry process. I personally didn’t have to spend time in prison but the idea that I am at my core a criminal is one that I and many others still grapple with years after completion of our sentences.
The time, financial cost, and physical energy it takes to earn back your rights is not lost on any person who has ever been convicted of a felony. When we complete our sentence to the state and register for any election, it’s earned and shows a level of commitment that many people would have a tough time imagining.
When we go to our local polling place and cast our vote it is legitimate; this is why when misinformation is directed at Georgians with past felonies, especially in statements from local political figures, we must respond with facts.
Voting can make the most politically disengaged citizen feel like a politician. Many people with felony convictions just want to feel like citizens. The amount of hurdles those with felonies have to go through in order to participate in the most fundamental democratic act often leads to apathy and disillusionment. For all the outcry of Georgians with felonies voting, under 15% that are eligible to vote actually exercise their constitutional right.
So when the state makes an attempt to aid that reentry process for those of us with felony convictions trying to enter back into society, state leaders should be overly cautious and aware of the facts. They would be best served to see our success as a positive for all Georgians.
Tyrel Dale is a policy analyst in the office of the Georgia Lieutenant Governor.