Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Scholars: Participation Key after Restoration of Ex-Felons' Voting Rights

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Scholars: Participation Key after Restoration of Ex-Felons' Voting Rights

Article excerpt

Political observers say Virginia will likely play a major role in November's presidential election, particularly after Gov. Terry McAuliffe used his executive power in April to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 of the state's convicted felons. That may be a good sign for Hillary Clinton, who officially clinched the Democratic nomination and will now go on to most likely challenge Republican businessman Donald J. Trump in the general election.

Despite her strong support for her husband's 1994 crime bill--which some say helped to spur the mass incarceration movement in the United States--and for once referring to young gang members as "super predators," Clinton has been barnstorming the nation, calling for criminal justice system reform and, in the process, has been trying to win over skeptical African-American voters.

"Something's wrong when Black kids get arrested for petty crimes but White kids who do the same things don't," Clinton said in a rousing speech delivered in April at the convention of the National Action Network, the civil rights group founded in 1991 by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"Mass incarceration is just one part of a broader set of interlocking challenges, because years of underinvestment and neglect have hollowed out many predominantly African-American communities.

... Not enough families, still today, have access to the education they deserve, the affordable housing they need to live in."

Long considered a swing state, the governor's executive order will permit all Virginia felons who have served their prison time and completed parole or probation to register to vote. Experts say that more than half of Virginia's convicted felons are African-Americans.

That's good news to the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, an activist who leads The Ordinary People's Society (TOPS), a faith-based nonprofit focused on the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons and helping inmates reenter society.

"I think what the governor in Virginia has done is remarkable," says Glasgow, who served prison time in Florida and Alabama and was among the first wave of Alabamians with criminal records to register to vote under a law passed during the 2003 legislative session.

"I hope that every other governor follows suit. Being the one and only person to ever win a lawsuit causing people in prison in Alabama to be able to vote, seeing the governor do this in Virginia spells out a message of freedom across the country."

Glasgow said that his organization will travel to Virginia in the upcoming months to help register scores of new voters. …

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