Not being able to vote does more than exclude people from the democratic process. Disfranchisement disproportionately affects poor and minority communities, diluting their political power. And because so many people in some of these communities can’t vote, their children grow up without the example of parents participating in the democratic process.
Yet poor and minority communities are arguably those who most need their voices to be heard. They need better schools, better health services, better roads, more jobs, and better housing. They need role models, and leaders who will help show them that their vote counts. They need to break the cycle of poverty that leads so many to crime. That doesn't just help their communities, it helps all of us.
US Congressman John Lewis, himself a part of the struggle for civil rights, views ending felony disfranchisement as an extension of the civil rights movement. He says it is time for the American people to rise up, but do we care enough any more? And if we don't, what does that say about us as Americans? And what happens to our democratic process?
A vibrant democracy serves everyone. And having an active democracy is about more than just going to the polls and casting a ballot. It's about ensuring that everyone has the right to vote. So find out about the issue. Learn what's going on in your state. Find out what needs to be done. Join local or national organizations that are acting to change things. Care about democracy.