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  • Writer's pictureBryan Watson

Returning Citizens Vote, Too

I don't know - what's as fulfilling as voting? How about voting when you thought you never could vote again?

It was 2008 and my friend ("Katie") was listening to me talk about Barack Obama. In a few months, we were going to elect an African-American as president! She listened ... and then she said "You. You will elect him. But I can't. I can't vote."

image of a poster by the Michigan Secretary of State's office declaring "You Can Vote!". It explains that a returning citizen can vote if they are on parole or probation, waiting to be sentenced, or have a past conviction.

Katie explained that, in her earlier years, she had done something stupid and landed in prison. Because of that, she told me, she could never vote again.

"Not true!", I told her. "You're released. You've paid for that. You can register. You can vote."

In the next couple of months, she got the paperwork and registered to vote. On a November day in 2008, Katie proudly wore her "I VOTED TODAY" sticker on her "I voted!" T-shirt.

How many people think that they can't vote because they've been imprisoned? Far more than you might think. But in most states, returning citizens regain their voting rights. You do have to register, so check with your local officials for instructions.

Here's a story about Michigan's returning citizens turning out to vote. If you, or someone you know, is a returning citizen, make sure that you've restored your voting rights.


[1] The article was published in the Detroit Free Press on August 2, 2020.

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