Tulsa, Oklahoma 2020-10-17 23:06:42 –
Most people believe that a felony loses the right to vote after being convicted. That’s true for some, but in Oklahoma it’s still their right.
But it’s not so truncated, and church organizations throughout the state are playing a role in eliminating the turmoil.
“It’s a lot of people, and the majority of them just don’t know,” said Donna Thompson, director of the prison ministry of the Oklahoma Baptist state legislature.
Thompson’s mission was to inform convicted serious offenders that they were eligible to vote in local, state and national elections.
Oklahoma is one of 21 states where felony residents can vote if they are sentenced to full imprisonment.
“We have to wait for the length of time of the original sentence, which is the required number of days for the court order,” Thompson said.
In August 2019, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law led by Oklahoma Parliamentarian Regina Goodwin to simplify the Ferron Voter Status section of the state registration form.
“A person convicted of a felony has completed probation when he has fully fulfilled his court-mandated calendar day sentence, including periods of imprisonment, parole and supervision, or according to court order.”
Thompson emphasizes “court-mandated calendar days” to avoid confusion.
“If the judge gives you 10 years, you have to wait 10 years on the calendar day,” Thompson said.
She said confusion was the norm. Criminals are often dismissed by the Corrections Office before a full imprisonment for earning credited time.
For example, if a prisoner is imprisoned for only four of the seven years in prison, he must wait the last three years before voting.
Catherine Birch was involved in this conundrum.
“I was like,’Wow, I have to pay taxes, but I can’t choose who represents me,'” Birch said.
Birch was sentenced to four felony charges and was fired in 2011, but did not obtain a voter registration card until last year.
“I feel refreshed,” Birch said. “When you are imprisoned, you are robbed of everything. It’s the feeling that you’re starting to get yours back and have your legitimate place in society.”
Burch is currently a volunteer at OBSC’s Prison Ministry. She helps fellow serious offenders register to vote.
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