There are so many destructive elements of our drug war, and this is just another one. It’s one that we’ve talked about here numerous times, but The Nation has a new article discussing the impact this year.
Lewis runs into Blair Bass, a 44-year-old customer service attendant. He was released from prison in 2009 for a felony conviction from 2001. Upon release, he says he was notified by the state’s elections division that his voting rights had been restored. A few months ago, Bass received another letter from the county telling him that he’s no longer eligible to vote because of his felony conviction. This confused him, because the county had also just sent him his voter identification card. He displays it from his wallet; it shows he registered in April 2011.
Bass wants to know if he should vote in November, but Lewis can’t be sure if he qualifies. She’s worked for years trying to get more black people to the polls, so it pains her to say what comes next. She tells Bass, as she has many others like him, not to vote.
Lewis fears that the former felons are headed into a “trap” set for them, and for the whole voting rights movement—one in which confused felons could end up in legal trouble and accused of voter fraud. Her suspicions are not unfounded.
The unbalanced drug war has created the largest increase in black ex-felons, and states like Florida sure seem to have been trying hard to use voter laws and the drug war as a way of silencing the black vote.