A national organization called Restore Your Vote has been touring battleground states ahead of the midterm elections, trying to get people with past convictions back on voter rolls. Lucia Starbuck attended one of their recent presentations in Reno, Nevada.
Restore Your Vote says 90,000 people were unable to vote in Nevada due to a conviction during the last election cycle in 2016. That is an estimated four percent of Nevada’s eligible voting population. Photo by Kacee Johnson for the Reynolds Media Lab.
Inside a conference room of Northern Nevada Hopes, a community health center, there is a sign-in clipboard inside and a display of blue shiny pins with the Restore Your Vote logo.
The main organizer Anthony Ritosa is trying to educate people convicted with felonies about their possible path to reclaim their right to vote again.
“We are working to educate in order to empower our fellow citizens to reclaim their voices in our democracy. Many people believe that they can’t vote after a past felony conviction. But in Nevada many people have their voting rights restored automatically,” Ritosa said.
A lot of people don’t know this, but Nevada state law says that if someone was released from prison and ended their probation before July 1st, 2003, all they need is to present their official discharge documentation when registering.
The Restore Your Vote interactive website guides people to reclaim their voting rights based off of their individual circumstances.
There are instances where courts need to be petitioned, but Ritosa explained there are still many possibilities to reclaim voting rights even for those with more recent criminal records.
A speaker at the event, Mahalia Jaramillo, was an intern last year at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
She worked on what’s called a re-enfranchisement campaign to help people restore their voting rights.
Mahaila Jaramillo says she also has her personal tie to the issue. “Being a child of a formerly incarcerated parent I know many people and families everywhere not just in Nevada [who] are impacted by having that brand and that stigma of a felony conviction,” she said. Photo by Kacee Johnson for the Reynolds Media Lab.
An All-Out Outreach Effort
The main organizer of the event Ritosa explained there is much more work to what he does than just having press conferences. But he says it’s a challenge to reach out to former convicts who can now vote.
“This isn’t a population that normally congregates because they have something in common such as a past felony conviction so it’s not the easiest locating people to help and to educate,” Ritosa said,
Part of the strategy has been to visit post-incarceration reentry centers and also trying to educate people outside courtrooms, bus stops and the Nevada parole board.
By Lucia Starbuck & Kacee Johnson, Reynolds Media Lab
Original Article: https://medium.com/rsjvote/a-path-for-former-convicts-to-vote-in-nevada-6052f355a77f