Many people are wondering how Hip Hop artist T.I. voted for the first time early last week, despite a felony weapons conviction.
Popular television Judge Greg Mathis, himself and ex-offender, has the answer to that question: Felons have the legal right to vote in most states.
Only less than a dozen states, he says, prohibit felons from exercising their 14th Amendment privilege, but the issue is that most people don’t know it.
Judge Mathis said as long as they have done the time for the crime there is no reason an ex-offender’s voting rights should be revoked anywhere.
There are more than 5 million disenfranchised voting eligible felons, disproportionately African American, who may potentially vote but it will require a little research on the part of the voter.
Since restrictions and allowances vary per state, Mathis recommends going online to find out what the law says in the state in question.
“Felons aren’t allowed to vote in Washington until they complete their sentence and have their rights legally restored,” the AP reports.
But the state of Georgia is different. In T.I.’s case, his attorneys discovered that as long as he was not serving a sentence or on probation, their client was eligible to vote, even though he is on house arrest.
“Now rather than just talking about it, I’m being about it. I’m leading by example, and it makes me feel a lot better,” 28-year-old T.I. said about voting for the first time in his life.
Mathis, has worked hard to get the felons educated about their voting rights because the numerical impact would clearly have a monumental affect on the justice system. In his judgment presidential hopeful Barack Obama would have a guaranteed victory if ex-offenders knew they could vote — and not just because he’s Black.
“There is a correlation between poverty and crime” Mathis explained in our interview; therefore, he’s convinced that Obama is a more appealing candidate due to normal democratic sensitivities.
As he has often acknowledged on The Judge Mathis Show, Mathis is a reformed product of “the system.” In the state of Michigan where he committed a crime during his youth Mathis paid his debt to society and was allowed to vote.
Laws that suppress the voting rights of felon, ex-offenders are just a way of stigmatizing them as “once a criminal always a criminal” and they should be given the opportunity to fully integrate back into society, Mathis said.