Activism and education remove barriers to voting
By Sheri L. Stuart, Staff Writer
In the days leading up to the November 6 midterm election, voting rights advocates are working diligently to ensure that every eligible citizen is engaged in the democratic process. Locally, their efforts included a stop at the Genesee County Jail where 200 inmates awaiting sentencing were registered to vote in time for the upcoming election. In Michigan, individuals with felonies, on parole and probation, and anyone not currently
serving a sentence have the right to vote. The registration drive was spearheaded by Ashley Carter, a staff attorney with the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization based in Washington D.C.; Flint’s M.A.D.E. Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to workforce development for at-risk-youth and returning citizens; and the Genesee County Clerk’s office.
Leon El-Alamin, founder and executive director of M.A.D.E., said the organization has made voter registration a key part of its programming in an effort to remove false filters and unnecessary barriers that prevent disenfranchised populations from being heard. He said he believes more people would vote if they knew their rights.
“This is a critical election. There is too much at risk for every eligible person not to be involved in the process,” said El-Alamin. “Many people we talked to at the jail did not know they could be registered to vote while awaiting sentencing. By being a registered voter, you reconnect with your humanity,” he said.
The newly registered voters will vote in the November 6 election by absentee ballot explained Genesee County Clerk John Gleason. He said his office will manage their requests for absentee ballot, which must be received by 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3.
“I applaud Ms. Carter, her team and all the local advocates for their work,” said Gleason. “They provided voter rights education as well as spiritual encouragement to those looking forward to reentering society. This was a fundamental exercise in citizenry,” said Gleason.
Your Rights As A Voter
- Individuals with felonies, on parole and probation, and anyone not currently serving a sentence have the right to vote in Michigan.
- No photo I.D.? No problem. Identify yourself with a military, tribal or government I.D.—but if you don’t have one, you may sign an affidavit at the polls and still vote a regular ballot. Provisional ballots will not likely be counted.
- You may enter the poll booth with sample ballots, instructions and other materials to help you vote. Stickers, pins or shirts that support a candidate or campaign are not allowed.
- If your name does not show up in the poll book, you should get help finding the right polling place.
- If you have recently moved, you can still vote at your old location one final time.
- Polling booths must be accessible, and poll workers must make sure voters with disabilities have access to a table and privacy booth, no matter what.
How Do You Vote Absentee?
You may vote by absentee ballot in Michigan if:
- you are 60 years old or older
- you are unable to vote without assistance at the polls
- you are expecting to be out of town on Election Day
- you are in jail awaiting arraignment or trial
- you are unable to attend the polls due to religious reasons
- you are appointed to work as Election Day inspector in a precinct outside of your precinct of residence