From today’s Portland Mercury:
In late 2019, State Senator Michael Dembrow and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee met with a group of incarcerated Oregonians presenting research on issues affecting the state’s incarcerated population.
One of the proposals the group presented to legislators was potentially groundbreaking: restoring the right to vote to people imprisoned for felonies.
“I have to admit that my first response to it was, ‘Woah. That’s going to take some getting used to,’” Dembrow, who represents parts of Northeast and Southeast Portland, said.
Oregon currently restores voting rights to people who have been convicted of felonies after they are released from prison. After hearing the arguments presented during the meeting, it didn’t take Dembrow long to overcome his initial skepticism about going a step further.
“The worst thing to have happen is to have [adults in custody] who are treated as isolated from the real world,” Dembrow said. “You want them to be thinking about the issues that their families are facing, that their communities are facing. Voting is part of that.”
Three years later, Oregon has the opportunity to position itself at the vanguard of a nationwide movement to restore voting rights to incarcerated Americans. A coalition of progressive organizations and legislators are backing Senate Bill 579, which, if it passes the state legislature and is signed by Governor Tina Kotek, would allow people convicted of a felony to vote in prison. If passed, the bill would restore voting rights to about 12,000 people in Oregon.
Read the complete story here.