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Advocates continue to push for voting rights restoration of convicted felons in Mississippi

Courtney Ann Jackson
WLOXMarch 09, 2021

Do the crime, do the time. It’s a phrase you’ve heard before. But here in Mississippi, there’s a big consequence that sticks with some offenders for life regardless of the time they serve.

Kim Biggs served time for a felony bad check charge. She was ready to start over when she was released but said that proved difficult.

“How do you become a returning citizen here in Mississippi?” said Biggs.

Among the things she and others want as they try to get back to a normal life is their right to vote. But this report released by One Voice Mississippi and Mississippi Votes shows more than 200,000 Mississippians are disenfranchised. That’s nearly 11 percent of the population.

“To have someone tell me that I can’t vote and I’ve gone through all this...that’s a slap in the face.”

Let’s be clear, it’s not every felony that results in a lifetime voting ban. But 22 do. They’re considered “disenfranchising offenses”.

“Taking away someone’s right to vote, silences their voice and devalues their worth as a resident in our state and our country,” described Mississippi Votes Executive Director Arekia Bennett.

There is a legislative process that allows individuals to request their voting rights be restored. Those are considered on a case-by-case basis. But it’s complicated. So, Mississippi Votes has put the application up on their site.

“This process is a mystery,” said Mississippi Votes Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator Jarrius Adams. “Most people, including elected officials and staffers at the Capitol are unsure of the process. If more people knew this was an option, there is no doubt that applications would soar.”

While they continue to push for change at the state level, advocates say there’s another possible resolution pending in Congress.

“HR 1 does include a provision that eliminates the disqualification of returning citizens with felony convictions from being disqualified from the voting process,” explained One Voice Mississippi Executive Director Nsombi Lambright-Haynes. “So, if HR 1 passes the Senate, we can put this issue to rest.”

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