YOU CAN VOTE!

If you are no longer in prison, you can vote, even if you are on probation or parole!

In 2006, OpenDoors (then known as the RI Family Life Center) ran the successful Rhode Island Right to Vote Campaign. As a result of the campaign, RI became the first state in our nation's history to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals through public referendum. Congratulations to everyone involved, and if you just won your right to vote, you can register to vote at OpenDoors.

Due to the success of the Right to Vote campaign, over 6,000 formerly disenfranchised individuals in Rhode Island were registered to vote in the 2008 election.

Voter Registration and Turnout Among Probationers and Parolees in Rhode Island
The 2008 election cycle was first in which RI felons on probation/parole could vote since 19th century.
Of 17,606 probationers and parolees re-enfranchised since 2006:
*6,330 registered to vote in time for the general election on November 4, 2008;
*3,001 voted in one or more of the three statewide elections in 2008.

History and Background
In 2006, Rhode Island voters approved, by referendum, an amendment to the state constitution extending voting rights to all individuals on probation or parole for a felony. As a result, disenfranchisement in Rhode Island is now limited to the time period during which an individual is incarcerated for a felony.

Approval of the amendment triggered legislation, known as the Rhode Island Restoration of Voting Rights Act (RIRVRA), which established implementation responsibilities for the RI Department of Corrections (DOC) and the RI Office of the Secretary of State (SOS). More information about RIRVRA is available at the Secretary of State's website.

Since then, OpenDoors, a non-profit agency that provides both services and advocacy to the formerly incarcerated, has cooperated with the DOC and SOS to register probationers and parolees and to help state agencies fulfill their responsibilities under RIRVRA.

Fulfilling the Requirements of RIRVRA
The major institutional changes implemented by the DOC and SOS under RIRVRA were as follows:
*The DOC now acts as a voter registration agency, and offers all inmates the opportunity to register to vote during their discharge;
*The DOC shares with the SOS, on a monthly basis, lists of individuals who have lost or regained their voting rights, and the SOS uses this information to update the Statewide Central Voter Registry System;
*The SOS notified the judiciary and other state offices of the change in the law;
*The SOS updated relevant websites and literature.

Learn More:

   
Restoring the Right to Vote

by Erika Wood of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law

Released: 2008

The right to vote forms the core of American democracy. Our history is marked by successful struggles to expand the franchise, to include those previously barred from the electorate because of race, class, or gender. As a result our democracy is richer, more diverse, and more representative of the people than ever before. There remains, however, one significant blanket barrier to the franchise. 5.3 million American citizens are not allowed to vote because of a felony conviction. As many as 4 million of these people live, work and raise families in our communities, but because of a conviction in their past they are still denied the right to vote.

Rhode Island's Shrinking Black Electorate

by RI Family Life Center

Released: 2005

Status of Relevant Legislation: In 2006, RI voters restored the right to vote to citizens on parole and probation.

Report detailing voter disenfranchisement and the need to restore voting rights to Rhode Island citizens on Parole and Probation.

Key Findings:

 

  • Rhode Island has the nation’s 13th highest percentage of African-American disfranchisement, higher than Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, North and South Carolina and 31 other states
  • 12 percent of African- Americans are barred from voting in Rhode Island
  • 20 percent of African-American men cannot vote statewide
  • 1 in 4 African-American men in Providence cannot vote
  • 40 percent of 18-34 year old African-American men on the Southside of Providence cannot vote

 

Political Punishment: The Consequences of Felon Disenfranchisement for Rhode Island Communities

Released: 2004 (pdf)

Status of Relevant Legislation: In 2006, RI voters restored the right to vote to citizens on parole and probation.

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