So, I read an article today, that said Cook County in Chicago, Illinois, hosted the "First jail-wide, in-person voting" event. Now, I don't know about you all, but this makes me really excited ☺️!
Only 2 states in the US allow prison inmates to vote, with 46 other states either restricting people from voting at all once they've been charged with a felony, or only allowing them to vote after completing their sentence or parole. On Saturday, March 10, 2018, Illinois became the third state to allow incarcerated individuals to vote and was the first time inmates were permitted to cast their vote in person!
First of all, this is progressive as hell!
I've always felt that our prison/justice system was corrupt. It is a system that disproportionately punishes lower income people of color. In addition, unlike more progressive 1st world countries, our prison system does not rehabilitate or give the incarcerated the tools to become productive members or society again.
As far as voting, there is a long standing history of voter suppression following the Civil War. Even today, each individual has to register to vote with their state of residence before voting, and many states require specific forms of identification in order to register. In addition, locations to obtain the correct identification requirements are typically located further away from poorer communities of color, and elections always take place during the work week. If you're already struggling financially, taking a day off to vote might not sit higher on your list than keeping your job. All of these stipulations make it very difficult for the people of lower socioeconomic status to vote, yet these are the voices that need to be heard. And if its this hard for low-income people of color to vote...its incredibly difficult (if not impossible) for people of color to vote if they have a record or are incarcerated.
The summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to work with students from Brown University on a project that aimed to increase access to healthcare for the incarcerated. This was an experience that put faces and stories to those that are incarcerated. People in prison are still people, and many are serving time for petty crimes or awaiting trial.
The way the prison system is currently set up, people are stripped of basic rights as soon as they are taken into custody. These are still voices that deserve to be heard. With a large population of people of color and people of lower socioeconomic status in the prison system, it simply comes off as another barrier that prevents under-represented voices from being heard (at leas
t from my perspective). Thats why i applaud Cook County for taking a progressive stance on voting within the prison system! This is a public health issue because representation in policy development directly impacts the health and wellbeing of a population!
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