February 27, 2019

40,000 People Gain Voting Rights on Friday: What you Need to Know

This Friday, March 1, approximately 40,000 Louisiana citizens will regain their voting rights under Act 636. This new law, covering people on probation and parole, was made possible by members of Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), who advocated for the passage of House Bill 265 at the State Capitol during the 2018 legislative session. The majority of advocates were people who are directly impacted by felony disenfranchisement. Thus, come Friday, when Act 636 goes into effect, they will be able to register to vote.

“I’m really excited that finally, after all these years, we’ve made it here,” says our Checo Yancy, Director of Voters Organized to Educate. “This is the new Civil Rights Movement. I’ve been out of prison for many years as a hard-working, tax-paying citizen with no voice in my elected leaders. Now, I’ll be able to elect people who actually have my best interests in mind.”

The three categories of Louisiana citizens impacted by felony convictions are: (1) people no longer on probation or parole; (2) people who have been on parole for at least five years; and (3) people who are on probation and have not been revoked (note: short-term jail time for a technical violation may not be considered a revocation).

Eligible voters should contact their probation or parole officer and ask for the necessary documentation from the Department of Corrections that proves their eligibility status. The voter can then register to vote in person or online. If the individual chooses to register online, the registration will not be complete until they bring their documentation from the Department of Corrections to the local registrar’s office.

To celebrate the historic victory, VOTE’s three chapters will be hosting simultaneous Formerly Incarcerated People’s Voter Registration Days on Friday. The New Orleans chapter event will be from 12-2pm at Duncan Plaza, directly across from City Hall, 1300 Perdido St. The Baton Rouge chapter will host a parallel event during the same time on the steps of Baton Rouge City Hall, 222 Saint Louis Street. The Lafayette chapter will host a “lunch and learn” starting at 11:30am and ending at 2pm in the conference room of their office, 110 Travis Street.

Both events will have voter registration tables set up for newly eligible voters, as well as speakers positively affected by this new law. There will be king cake, music and fun for the whole family. There will also be shuttles to the local Probation and Parole office, so people will be able to obtain the certified form that proves their eligibility.

“Civic engagement is the only way that you can feel like you’re a citizen again,” says VOTE member Leonard J. Bastida, who has been on parole for almost 7 years and will be registering to vote at the event in New Orleans. “It’s a good feeling to know that I’ve been in compliance long enough to have people within the law say, ‘It’s ok, you’re alright.’”

VOTE is working with the Secretary of State’s office to disseminate information about Act 636 to newly eligible voters. The letter that newly eligible voters will need in order to register will be available by Friday at 8am at your local probation and parole office. The organization asks that anyone needing assistance with the registration process email them at admin@vote-nola.org. or call them at 504-571-9599. Also, check out their new informational video, which explains Act 636 and any questions you may have about the law.

Voters Organized to Educate encourages all impacted people and allies to join VOTE on Friday. Attendees can RSVP via the Facebook event for New Orleans here, for Baton Rouge here, and for Lafayette here. For the Lafayette event, attendees can rsvp at the e-mail address above.

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