Voting: What Does It Really Cost?

Webster defines voting as: a choice or opinion of a person or body of person. A method by which groups of people make decisions.

If the 15th amendment of the United States Constitution states that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. And also The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a law passed to help enforce the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Which states an American citizen shall not be denied the right to vote due to race or skin color.

Why does every convicted felon in Virginia lose this sacred and honorable right? To automatically loss this right after being convicted of a felony offense speaks volume.

In many states, Virginia included; termination of the right to vote by convicted felons is automatic. This actually demonstrates how powerful voting is.

Just think you can be convicted of drinking and driving, serve time for reckless driving. God forbids you can injure or even kill someone, however your right to purchase alcohol isn’t terminated. The penalty for these acts could be a suspension of driving privileges for a period of time and fines. Some cases could result in jail time.

Yes, there’s a process for the restoration of voting rights. But we’re seeing how this process has become politically fueled and motivated.

So that would lead one to ask the question why terminate the right to vote?

Terminating this right actually silence you. You lose the right to have a say in major events. Many of these events are life changing.

We’re seeing in our divided democracy the increase momentum to limit accessed to voting. While watching some of our leaders spew false voting claim’s after being defeated.

We now have a part of society that believes that voting doesn’t matter. Many citizens fail to vote thinking their votes don’t count.

However just think “Roe v Wade” was repealed by the United States Supreme Court. This was after poor voting turn out led to a particular party winning control. Which afforded this party the right to appoint judges of their similar ideologies to the United States Supreme Court. Please realize that these lifetime appointments have dire consequences, with very limited oversight.

If “Roe v Wade” in 1973 can be repealed what’s next?
For many years the right to vote was a major issue.
I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I lost something that cost someone else so dearly.
However I look forward to regaining this sacred and honorable right.
We all must really pay close attention to the political climate in our divided country.

Just turn on your nightly news, advertisements, PACTS. As well as the billionaire donors. Everyone knows how important each vote is.

Many know how important power is. We’re seeing how even our freedom is often control by which party is in control.

We watched one party abolished parole while another attempted several reinstatement measures. Now our freedom is pending in the courts. With no one stopping to ask ” have we been rehabilitated.”
I agree there must be balance and accountability. There’s many behind theses walls deserving of another chance.

So please VOTE!!!! From our local election to the national election. Every vote matters. Failing to vote eliminates your voice.

If others are fighting so hard to take this right away we should see how important voting is.

And look at the large amount of money that is spent during election seasons. Its mind boggling to think millions are spent during elections, while citizens are homeless and hungry.

Again to all my brothers and sisters behind these walls please make it a priority to inform your family and friends to vote. So what does voting cost: YOUR FREEDOM! And your VOICE!!!!!

Samuel E Harris #1026738
Lawrenceville Correctional Center

Taxation Without Representation

Formerly Incarcerated Citizens and Civil / Political Disability

By Danny Ray Thomas

When returning citizens reenter society, probation and parole expects us to immediately find employment and begin the process of developing as productive citizens. Our paychecks have the same withholdings just as anyone else in the workforce. By April 15th of every year, we’re required to have our taxes filed, and if we’re lucky we’ll get a refund. In other instances, we’re told we owe money or funds are withheld for child support or other debts the state or federal government have made claims to.

What has always concerned me is the fact that we can be taxed as anyone else without restoration, yet we cannot vote without permission. Our tax dollars will assist in funding schools and first responders, ironically our tax dollars also pay the probation officer who’ll violate us and send us back to prison where our taxes will also pay the corrections officers and prison officials who’ll stand watch over us.

Well after incarcerated citizens complete their sentence, we remain “civilly disabled.” Why is it that we lose the right to determine which legislators and other politicians determine what’s best for the communities we live in? This is clearly “retribution,” which is considered one of the (4) four goals of incarceration, the other three being, societal protection, deterrence, and punishment. In some instances, the Courts have referenced “rehabilitation” as a fifth, but refuting that fallacy would be encyclopedic in length.

In any event, we remain “civiliter mortuus” (civilly dead) to the state which not only impacts our right to vote on the local level. Clearly this makes no sense. Again, we don’t have to prove ourselves to pay taxes yet we must do so to vote. I’d love to hear Governor Youngkin’s answer to this question; better yet, I’d like to be a fly on the wall when he’s discussing this issue behind closed doors!

Governor Youngkin is empowered to remove what the Courts refer to as “political disabilities,” but not all rights lost as a result of a felony conviction, for instance, the jurisdiction to restore firearm rights lost in those circumstances is vested in the circuit court. The Virginia Constitution allows the Governor of Virginia to individually restore political rights of convicted felons without judicial review, see the
Va. Constitution article V, section 12.

Restoration of the right to vote, hold public office, to serve on a jury, or be notary public does not constitute an inherent danger to public safety or does it? Maybe this is true for those in power that realize the power of the formerly incarcerated citizen.We all know that old addage “givem an inch they’ll take a mile!

Today we’ll vote, tomorrow we’ll serve on a jury, the day after we’ll hold public office. Neither aspiration of serving on a jury or holding public office can occur without the initial ability to vote. If they nullify our ability to vote, they also nullify our ability to have a direct impact on the system. It’s obvious which side of the aisle the ‘formerly incarcerated citizen’ stands on, can someone say “Progressive!”

In 2016, Governor Terry McAullife used his executive power to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 former prisoners in response to campaigns to end felony disenfranchisement. “I remain committed to moving past our Commonwealth’s history of injustice to embrace an honest process for restoring the rights of our citizens,” the governor said.”The struggle for civil rights has always been a long and difficult journey but the fight goes on.Unfortunately, republicans challenged the Governor’s executive order to The Virginia Supreme Court and the court determined that Governor McAuliffe did not have the authority to restore these rights without an individual application by each petitioner. Howell v. McAullife , 292 Va. 320.

The opposition to the restoration of voting rights to the formerly incarcerated has created an attitude of pessimism and defeat in many. My message to them is simple, “If voting doesn’t matter, why do they fight so hard to keep you from participating in the process?”

In Struggle,
D Ray Thomas, Green Rock Correctional, #1054249

My name is Danny Ray Thomas and I’ve been incarcerated for 21 years. I am from Pittsylvania county just outside of Danville, Va. I currently reside at Green Rock Correctional and I work as the Treatment aide. I work with counselors teaching anger management, thinking for a change, victim impact and ready to work.I am an activist and mentor in this community of men. I’m not one who’d shy away from the struggle we face, instead I embrace it. I’ve written for the “unlocked project,” a collaboration between the Coalition for Justice and Virginia Tech. I’ve also written for NYU ‘s review of law and social change publication called “The Harbinger,” my piece with them is called “The Calamity of Sentencing in Virginia” which can be found at am also a part of NYU’s “Jailhouse Lawyer’s Initiative. Needless to say I am a student of this movement against mass incarceration and I look forwarded to collaborating with anyone who feels the same as I do.

“Make Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse.”

On the topic of freedom that comes with the right to vote, is something that is very important also productive, because the person that votes can put the right people in office to change the world. But, only if you know who you’re voting for and why.

A lot of people get caught up by politician’s telling you a lie. They sell you a dream to get your vote, but the whole time they have another agenda they’ve kept from you. They’ve pulled the wool over your eyes and then once they get in office, you never receive your promise that you thought was going to happen. There’s power in the freedom to vote. Governor Glenn Youngkin knows that, which is why he went under the table and recently overturned felon’s right to vote. He made it harder to get our voting rights because he knows him and others can’t continue to win elections if too many of us have a chance to vote. Virginia doesn’t want us to have freedom to vote because it’s power – too much power in their eyes – and they know they will lose.

I often talk to people and everybody says they want change, but at the same time, they don’t want to put the work in and vote or help some other way to make a difference. All they want is a hand out, and that’ll never happen. I like to use a quote from the (God Father movie): “Make them an offer they can’t refuse,” and you do that by voting the right candidate into office and change will come for prison reform as well as state laws.

My wife and I are involved in getting people to vote by trying to convince them, even when they are skeptical. She works for an organization and she often talks to future delegates and senators to vet them out to see if they are the right person to get in office.

If every American could vote, the laws would be so different in this country. I would say it would be more better than worst a lot would be different maybe the right people would be in congress and we could get Black Americans in the constitution, instead of just having privileges. To all my people: know that you can make a change in the world by voting or doing what you can. It’s a process that’s been going on for over a hundred years. So please make Virginia a better state and go out and vote.

Peace and Blessings,
Allen Jackson

My name is Allen Jackson and I was born in Charlottesville, Va and was raised in Charlottesville, Louisa, and Richmond.

What’s Free 2023!? – Voting.

Editor’s Note: What’s Free is a column that began in 2020, that asks the incarcerated community what freedom means to them. Inspired by the movement of enhanced earned sentence credits, we have raised the topic every year to keep the momentum alive as more brothers and sisters remain behind bars in the Virginia prison system. This year, Q has decided to talk about the freedom that comes with participating in our political system.

Virginia criminal justice reform has been shifting back in forth between a full, most needed overhaul and virtual crumbs to keep the majority of our loved ones seeking more from our state leaders. This year though, one hundred seats in the Virginia House of Representatives are up for reelection. This is where the power of the vote will have its greatest chance to reflect the voices of the incarcerated in the form of our loved ones active participation in the voting process.

When it comes to voting and change as a whole, all of us who have been dejected by the losses we’ve taken must be wary of a most destructive attitude – political skepticism – which only serves to keep the chains on the mind, soul, and in our case, the body.

It’s no secret: every stride gained in regards to who gets to vote in America, has come by way of combat. Normally, this form of combat has placed minorities in position of a proverbial David versus the very real Goliath of bigotry and racism. Continuous combat of this nature will leave a sense of dread and despair no matter how many times we have overcome…

For example, for the last 10 years, Virginia governors fought to ease the path to Restoration of ex-felons rights. In a single term, Glenn Youngkin secretly rolled back automatic expungement without ever addressing the public about the change. But why? What does Glenn Youngkin have to fear from a fuller version of the right to vote? He has to fear YOU!

Political skepticism is the biggest threat to change. Feeling like your vote doesn’t matter, your voice won’t change anything, that the vote is ‘rigged,’ are all thoughts that trap you in a form of political slavery where you willingly give up your fate to the hands of those who’ve already condemned you.

We’ve already heard the stories about how vicious southerners became when former slaves were granted the right to vote. Through those acts of brutality and intimidation, we can surmise how important and powerful the vote is in this country. Even in modern day – look at how Donald Trump played with the idea of the vote being rigged to charge up his base and turned them on the capitol.

Minorities often complain about how politicians are constantly pandering them – encouraging them to get out and vote for them – yet minorities are still skeptical about whether their vote even matters. The fact is that Democrats need a large portion of the minority vote to win the presidential office in any given year.

Let’s look at it this way: if the vote is real (which I most certainly believe it is), then not going out to vote has very real life-costing consequences. The greatest threat that must be overcome is the captive thinking of political skepticism.

What’s Free!? Freedom in this country looks like every single American voting in EVERY election – whether they’re an ex-felon, incarcerated, or free.


Prompt Questions (Thought Starters for the Incarcerated Population):

  • Can you identify examples of political skepticism in your every day life? Does it affect you? Why or why not?
  • How do you feel about the recent changes Govorner Youngkin made to the restoration of rights?
  • Being ineligible to vote yourself, how do you plan to be involved in the upcoming state elections for the Virginia General Assembly members?
  • How do you think that society can benefit from every American being able to vote?