League of Women Voters Promotes Voting Rights for All
Sue Irvine and Marianna Scheffer (immediate past president of Hawaii County League) displaying voting rights materials presented at Kulani Correctional Facility
(as submitted to) Tribune-Herald, May 16, 2007
HILO – Susan Irvine, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, announced this week that the League of Women Voters of Hawaii County participated in a national effort to promote discussion on the lack of voting rights for some of our nations citizens – notably the citizens of the District of Columbia who fulfill the obligations of American citizenship by paying federal taxes, serving in the military, and serving their community—yet are still denied full voting representation in Congress.
Marianna Scheffer, immediate past-president of the LWV of Hawaii County, gave an informal lecture and discussed material on D.C. voting rights with her class of high school equivalency students at Kulani Correctional Facility. These students are incarcerated felons, who do not have the right to vote in Hawaii. Most of them had recently taken the “Government and Law” unit of the high school program and so were able to ask good questions and to express the opinion that depriving citizens of a basic right like voting was wrong.
Scheffer said, “We discussed the disenfranchisement of felons, who, no matter what their crime has been and whether they have served their sentences, are nonetheless citizens. We also investigated the class and race aspects of disenfranchisement and the historical trend toward enfranchising more and more groups.
“Discussions with these men are always lively. Of all the students I have encountered in my many years of teaching, I must say that prisoners are my favorites because they love to "talk story". They become especially impassioned about issues of rightness and fairness like this one!
“We examined the statistics on disenfranchisement of felons from state to state. Only four states allow incarcerated felons to vote and do not deprive these citizens of their vote for any reason. Some states permanently disenfranchise felons, as is the case in Florida, where laws are presently easing.
“We discussed the way some states effectively keep down the vote of African American males, who are far more likely than any other group of Americans to have felony convictions. And of course a large percentage of D.C. citizens are African-American and have no one in Congress representing them.
“We concluded as a group that it is wrong to keep citizens from voting; it is the birthright of those who are born in the U.S. and is the acquired right of naturalized citizens and should not be infringed upon for any reason.
“Thanks to Mary Nielsen and the Kulani Education Facility staff for making this such a successful occasion.”
For more details contact: Susan Irvine 935 8080 email@example.com
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.