After nearly 40 years, once convicted felon now gets the chance to vote

After nearly 40 years, once convicted felon now gets the chance to vote
Checo Yancy, a former felon, was able to cast his vote during early voting Monday, Sept. 29. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Checo Yancy was convicted of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated crimes against nature, and possession of cocaine. Nearly 40 years later, he’s getting the chance to vote, a right he has fought for since being released.

“Most folks don’t realize 85 to 90% of people are going to come out of prison anyway,” Yancy said. “Wouldn’t you want them to be better people and be a part of the system? I pay my taxes, I do everything I’m supposed to do, so for the people that may say, ‘He did the crime, he has to do the time and he shouldn’t have his rights back,’ well at some point, you have a carrot dangling for people to understand that if you do the right thing, it will pay off. And then guess what? I don’t create another victim.”

In 2018, Yancy’s fight yielded his desired results: the Louisiana Legislature voted to reinstate voting rights for nearly 40,000 felons.

On Monday, Sept. 29, his dream was realized. He was finally able to cast his ballot.

“It’s been a long time coming and I’m just so excited,” Yancy said. “I didn’t think I was going to be this nervous. I am nervous, but I can remember what my grandmother used to say years ago. ‘Hard work pays off.’”

Convicted felons wanting to have their voting rights reinstated must go through a process in order to do so. They must first go to their probation or 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.

“We are leading this because we have that five year cleansing period where if you’ve been out of prison, you don’t have any infractions, then you have the right to vote if you’re still on probation or parole,” said Rep. Patricia Smith, whose district covers parts of West Baton Rouge Parish.

Rep. Smith says if you’re a felon, you should reach out to Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE). The non-profit organization has offices around the state to offer assistance to help people get registered.

“VOTE will walk them through everything they need to do,” she said. “They have offices across the state, in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Alexandria, all over. So a VOTE office exists somewhere. Walk into that office, tell them you’re an FIP [formerly incarcerated person] and you want to get your right to vote back and they will help you through that process.”

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