Should convicted felons ‘on paper’ – who’ve been released on probation or parole – be allowed to vote? State Representative Tamara Grigsby is author of legislation that would do that. Grigsby asked, “Why would we not want encourage public participation? Why would we not want to encourage people to exercise their right to vote?”
Testifying in favor of the bill, Jimmy Davidson of Madison, who served thirteen years in Wisconsin prisons. “Jimmy Gene Davidson and other people similarly situated should not be apart from society, they should be a part of society,” said Davidson. “Voting makes me a part of society.”
Wisconsin barred convicted felons from voting in 1964, but Grigsby says there’s now a nationwide trend to restore the franchise to those who’ve served their time. Currently, felons released on probation and parole are not allowed to vote. Given the racial disparities among Wisconsin’s prison population, Grigsby said the disenfranchisement falls along racial lines. “Felony disenfranchisement laws are rooted in the Jim Crow era, and were intended to bar minorities from voting,”
Grigsby, a Milwaukee Democrat, told the Assembly Committee on Corrections and the Courts that it’s ironic, the type of responsible civic behavior which society encourages of ex-convicts is barred to them in the case of voting.