As the 2008 election nears, voters have already started casting their ballots.
But, there’s a group that might not be at the polls come november, former felons.
In California, people serving prison time or on parole are not eligible to vote.
But, ex-felons who’ve finished their sentences or are on probation can.
“But a lot of people don’t know that,” says Eric Greene of the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles. “Even people in the government, people in registrar offices and county clerks offices that were supposed to know the law, don’t know the law. So there’s a lot of misinformation in the community.”
The ACLU started a public information campaign to make sure former felons know their rights.
They’re broadcasting radio spots featuring their program and pointing people to their website.
They’re also handing out fliers to churches and civic groups, in both English and Spanish.
Greene says the program isn’t just a one hit wonder.
They plan on using it for future elections.
“A lot of people feel that they have kinda permanent sentence that it’s like they have a big scarlet a on their chest and they’ll never have the rights of a normal citizen again,” says Greene.
Locally, the NAACP is reaching out to community groups working with ex-felons.
The Riverside County Registrar’s Office works with county jails to give people facing charges ballots to vote.
“Individuals are very appreciative of being able to exercise they’re right to vote because again they haven’t been convicted of anything yet,” says Barbara Dunmore, the Riverside County Registar Voters of Office.
And, with only days to an historic election, every vote counts.
“This is an election when people want to exercise their vote more than any other election,” say Dunmore.