Courting the American Felon's Vote

Two-hundred thousand formerly incarcerated men and women will have their voting rights restored, thanks to a new law signed b
Two-hundred thousand formerly incarcerated men and women will have their voting rights restored, thanks to a new law signed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Virginia is just one of many states that have enabled ex-offenders to exercise their constitutional right to vote.Just a few years ago, no politician would dare expend political capital on defending the rights of those incarcerated for fear of appearing soft on crime. But the national zeitgeist is evolving at stunning velocity. Indeed, about the only thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree upon is that our criminal justice system is seriously broken.Nationwide, approximately 60% of eligible voters participate in the presidential elections; only 40% vote in congressional races. Well-organized groups and associations like the National Rifle Association (five million members) or the American Association of Retired Persons (37 million members) constitute formidable voting blocs, and their support is eagerly solicited by candidates running for office.No one yet is talking about the burgeoning political clout that ex-offenders will soon wield. With at least 70 million Americans with criminal records—one in three adults—is it too far-fetched to imagine this population organizing into a formidable united front, and take an important seat at the decision-makers’ table?Those that fail to recognize the latent potential of this largely ignored demographic do so at their own risk. There was a time when women were maligned as a marginal economic force that seldom made decisions on their own. African-Americans and Latin Americans and the LGBT communities were similarly denigrated as a group. Until they weren’t.We can count on more money being spent on education and drug rehabilitation for our nation’s incarcerated. More jobs will be made available. Ex-offenders will come out of the shadows and emerge as an empowered social and economic force to be reckoned with. To all our politicians and pundits: pay heed to the NAIP—the National Association of Incarcerated people. You’ll want their vote.
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