Disenfranchisement Can Lead To Disengagement

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A woman holds a sign reading “Protest then Vote” during a police escorted funeral procession organized by the COOL Church to symbolize a day of mourning for those lives lost due to systemic racism, Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Hallandale Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — When a person is incarcerated, they lose their right to vote. That law has disenfranchised Black people who are disproportionately represented in prison populations.

The advocacy organization Alliance of Families for Justice (AFJ) works to engage the families of incarcerated people.

“What we found is that most people who have loved ones incarcerated have lost the desire to vote,” said Phoebe Brown, who works on the ground for the organization. “They’ve given up.”

However, Brown argued if you’re not involved you can’t make a change.

Since African Americans gained the right to vote, there have been efforts to suppress or deny the Black vote. Brown said people who have been historically disenfranchised become disengaged. She said that means the people most effected by certain policies are not part of the decision making process.

Brown sees candidates’ campaign promises go unfulfilled because the gridlock in government. She advocates for communities of color to engage in the election process, then continue to demand their officials fulfill their promises. She said if you’re not involved then you can’t make a change.

“Study your candidates,” said Brown. “Question them. Talk to them. Pressure them.”

AFJ is pressuring lawmakers to reinstate people’s right to vote while they are still incarcerated. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order in 2018 allowing people who had been released the ability to re-register to vote.

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, is on Friday. WSKG is exploring what freedom looks like today. We’ll have more stories this week on WSKG and at WSKG.org.