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Restoration of voting rights is critical to reintegrating back into society


Restoration of voting rights is critical to reintegrating back into society

Mar 01, 2023 | 6:05 am ET
By Randy Pruitt
Restoration of voting rights is critical to reintegrating back into society
(Photo by Kgroovy / Creative Commons)

Many who have been formerly incarcerated, including myself, agree that connection to our community is our most critical lifeline when reintegrating into society after the completion of a prison sentence. 

We are thrust into society and are told to find a job, a place to live, and support ourselves financially, while all these processes present monumental challenges and barriers. 

Feeling connected to community can make a significant difference in the reintegration process, and can help decrease the likelihood of recidivism.

One of the many ways formerly incarcerated New Mexicans can connect to community after being released from prison is to vote. But many of us, including me, are unable to get our right to vote restored.

I have been denied the right to vote multiple times by the Curry County Clerk, even though I am eligible to vote. 

Under current law, New Mexicans who have completed their prison sentence, and have completed their probation or parole are eligible to register and have their right to vote restored. 

This also applies to those whose charges have been dismissed or cleared. My felony charges have been publicly dismissed. 

Other charges I have from 2005 are so old that the probation department can’t provide me with records to prove that I completed my probation and am eligible to vote.

I have applied three times to have my right to vote restored, and have been denied three times. 

I don’t understand what purpose not allowing me to vote serves, other than preventing me from voting against someone who has violated my rights or a lawmaker who impacts my life. 

Barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated people from voting are nothing less than attempts to disenfranchise people who are likelier to be people of color, or who come from low income backgrounds. 

Policies like this represent yet another way the system silences our voices and disempowers our communities. But our strength is in our fight, which is why people like me are speaking at the Roundhouse about the importance of passing HB4. 

Although many of us are working, paying taxes, and contributing to our communities, we are still being denied the opportunity to participate in elections that impact our lives. 

HB 4 makes it clear that anyone who is not incarcerated will be eligible to vote, which would restore voting rights for people like me who are caught in the bureaucratic red tape of the government and our carceral system. 

It’s time to work towards true reintegration, and build a state where those who have completed a prison sentence are welcomed back with open arms. 

HB 4 is a critical step towards this, and towards strengthening our democracy, which will always benefit from everyone having a voice.