BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Friday, Mar. 1 is a big day for thousands of convicted felons who have served their time in jail. After decades of waiting and years of fighting, many will finally get to register to vote.
State leaders say about 36,000 felons who are out of jail will become eligible to register to vote on Mar. 1. The process is a bit cumbersome though. It requires in-person visits at two different offices, but advocates for this law are just glad it’s finally happening.
“We got an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, pull that lever,’” said Checo Yancy, director of Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE). He’s leading a pep rally of sorts.
“The forms are gonna be ready at 8 a.m.,” he said.
He’s explaining a new law passed in 2018 by the Louisiana legislature. It’s been a long fight for Yancy, who was released from Angola in 2003 after 20 years behind bars.
“I did something years ago I had no business doing. Now, I get my voting rights back that I lost 30 some years ago to make my kids proud and my granddaughter proud,” Yancy said.
He’s one of an estimated 36,000 people who become eligible to vote Mar. 1. The new law applies to people who are off probation or parole, those on probation who have never been incarcerated, and those on parole for at least five years with no major violations.
“The thing about it, you have to prove people wrong, that this can work, this would be an incentive for people,” Yancy said. “They look at it, and they say ok, and you should be put in the system and it’s good to go.”
The process was just finalized in February. VOTE is working to spread the word. Those eligible must first go to their probation and parole office and request a form that clears them to register. Then they take that form and their ID to a registrar of voters office.
“It’s real history that we’re making,” Yancy said.
Now they’re working to break the stigma that often follows convicted felons, and encouraging those eligible under the new law to take advantage of it.
“It’s a right, it’s not a privilege. Some people say, you know, it’s a privilege, this is a real right. When I pledge allegiance to the flag, and I’m a former veteran, fought for this country, so to get my right to vote back is very, very important to me, and I will treasure that,” said Yancy.
State leaders say they’re ready for the process to start at 8 a.m. Friday. They expect an initial rush as people try to get registered for the next election on Mar. 30. VOTE will be helping people register all day Friday. They’ll be holding a press conference at 12 p.m. at the downtown registrar’s office.