With exactly two weeks left until November 4, we are in the final crunch of election season. Political signs line our streets and television and radio ads for candidates play on repeat. While at times overwhelming, it is an exciting opportunity for us to learn about the different issues and candidates on the ballot. After reflecting on the issues that are most important to us this year, attempting to sift through the vast amount of information available and perhaps even watching a debate or two, we then have the opportunity to cast our vote, helping to shape what policy will be made and who will be making it during the upcoming legislative session.
Yet every year almost 6 million Americans are legally barred from voting due to their involvement in the criminal justice system. In all but two states (Maine and Vermont) there are restrictions in place that deny the right to vote to people currently incarcerated, on probation, or, in some states, anyone with a felony record.
As we've written before, "Disfranchising people following their criminal conviction accomplishes exactly the opposite of what we should be doing to promote re-entry. In fact, removing the right to vote can only diminish an inmate’s stake in society and lessen their motivation to maintain their social ties. In this way, disfranchisement of citizens with criminal convictions is actually harmful" to their long-term prospects for reintegration into society. To read more about the ACLU of Maine’s work to protect the voting rights of incarcerated Mainers click here.
This November 4 we can be proud of the fact that Maine is a national leader on this issue, demonstrating to other states that inclusion is imperative in the democratic process.
Do you know your rights at the polls? Click here to download our guide to voting rights in Maine.