Ohio Free the Vote Project:                      

Julie writes:

 "Like many of my fellow classmates, I had never heard of the Ohio Free the Vote Coalition (OFTV).   At first I didn't feel very supportive about the organization.  I felt extremely put out that I had to volunteer two of my Saturday afternoons and go downtown to the Cuyahoga County Jailhouse to help register convicts.

But upon learning more about the cause, I was surprised to learn the people that were in the county jail weren't convicts at all.  These people were either awaiting trial, or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor.  As citizens, these people had the right to vote. Interestingly, the majority of the inmates along with correctional workers had no idea that incarcerated people had the right to vote.  Instead of just educating all the parties concerned, the OFTV actually went the extra step and completed the cause by registering the prisoners.  This act surprised many of them who were very grateful to feel as though they were still part of society.

It didn't become real to me until I went to the Cuyahoga County Jailhouse and started registering the inmates. After chatting with the inmates I was registering, I got the impression that some of them were first time voters.  I'd say the average age was approximately 35 to 40 years old.  Regardless of what their transgressions were, they had the right to vote and many of them seized the opportunity to voice their opinion through their vote.

I learned that by protecting these people's voting rights, we actually are protecting our own rights.  By volunteering to help with voter registration, I feel I helped contribute to our democratic process. After all, they had not been convicted, but shame on us for treating them as though they had been, including me."

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