Some 5.85 million Americans will likely be barred from voting on Nov. 6, not because of voter ID restrictions but because of the myriad laws that disenfranchise those with felony convictions. 2 Chainz isn't taking that statistic -- or his own disenfranchisement -- sitting down.
The "Birthday Song" rapper has become a spokesman for a campaign called Respect My Vote that targets young, urban voters and provides information on reinstating voting rights for ex-felons. For him, the message is personal.
"I've been a felon since I was 15, so when I found out that I could be reinstated and all of that and get my votership back, I've been a voice for that," he told HuffPost Entertainment in August about his involvement with the campaign.
A report by the Sentencing Project examining 2010 data shows African Americans, and especially black men, are disproportionately affected by these laws, with more than 2 million African Americans disenfranchised because of felony convictions. In the swing states of Florida and Virginia, black voter disenfranchisement is over 20 percent.
In many states, those who can't vote include not only current prisoners, but also those on probation and parole. As the report notes, "only about one-fourth of this [disenfranchised felon] population is currently incarcerated, meaning that over 4 million of the adults who live, work, and pay taxes in their communities are banned from voting. Of this total, nearly one million are African American."
But few of those former felons who could restore their voting rights do so. And, the authors write, "even accounting for these restorations, it is clear that the vast majority of ex-felons in these states remain disenfranchised."
In a video for Fuse TV, 2 Chainz recalls how he first found out about restoring his right to vote.
"I remember being in the mall around '08 and lady just telling me, 'Come sign up to vote,' and I just felt it was too late; I made a mistake when I was young and just couldn't fix it." But, he continues, that's not true in all cases. "I realized that you can vote again once you're a felon."
(Unfortunately, that's not true if you live in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia or Wyoming -- states that deny the right to vote not only to inmates but also to those on parole and probation and those who have completed their sentences.)
"I just try to spread the word to people I felt like who maybe made mistakes and just want to, like, correct their wrongs, and you should be able to do that," 2 Chainz adds.
While 2 Chainz says he's an Obama supporter, his message is one of voter encouragement, not partisanship. "I remember finding this info out in '08 when people weren't really 2 Chainz-crazy. But I feel like now when I talk sometimes people listen, and this is something I want them to listen to," he says.
"November 6th, where will you be? I'll be voting."