Legislation is being held up by the Republican controlled Assembly, that would save taxpayers money, streamline election day procedures and enfranchise some 38,000 people, allowing them to vote in November. The bill would allow those that have been convicted of felonies to vote while they are still on parole or probation. Current Wisconsin law disenfranchises those citizens until they are totally ‘off paper.’ African Americans comprise 39 percent of this group of people even though they only make up 5 percent of the state’s voting age population. One has to wonder about the Assembly Republicans real intentions in holding up such a bill.
Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express reported this week that 16 states have changed their laws to allow released felons to vote since 1997. The Legislative Audit Bureau has reported that Wisconsin’s strict policy has prevented at least 1,537 people from voting even though they legally could vote in November 2006. Not only does our restrictive law lock out some of the wrong people, it also prevents the people that we want to reintegrate back into society from doing so fully. As State Rep. Joe Parisi (D-Madison) has said, ‘Our goal should be reintegration, not alienation.’