Ex Felons Can Vote…Finally!
I'm a huge supporter of "If you do the crime you do the time." I am a perfect example of that phrase. I think if you're convicted of driving drunk you should "do the time." Or if you commit a felony you do the time. I also believe that once an individual has "paid their debt to society," then society should let people become contributing members of that society. Not put roadblocks in their path towards becoming citizens again.
Scott Stinson, a colleague of mine, will get to vote in the upcoming general election. His first in many years. 15 years ago he was convicted of a methamphetamine possession charge and did his time courtesy of the State of Wyoming in Rawlins. Now he's a licensed social worker and a Certified Addictions Practitioner working with men coming out of the system. He's the recipient of a law the State Legislature passed back in 2003 that enabled certain ex-felons to have their voting rights restored. My friend will finally vote for the first time since... "Well since Clinton was President. This is an honor for me. Something I gave away a long time ago. It means something to me," Stinson said. He also pointed out however, in the nine years since the law passed, he is one of only 58 people who have taken advantage of the act. A recent study by the Sentencing Project found that nearly six percent of Wyoming citizens of voting age are disenfranchised because of a previous felony conviction. I talked with Dan Fetsco, Deputy Director of the Board of Parole who said "Right now the laws we have are contradictory to the whole concept that, "Once you pay your dues, we let you back into society". Once a person does what society asks them to they should be allowed to reintegrate back into that society. I deal with offenders all the time and if we want to keep people from re-offending, we should help them to assimilate back into society as much as possible.”
And so after 15 years Scott Stinson gets to vote. One of the means he was able to be so successful, change who he was, was through his own recovery. He recently celebrated 13 years clean and sober. He hopes other felons will take advantage of the law. "For so many years I was told because of my disease I didn't matter. That I was less than and should accept the fact that I can't change. But I didn't. I have hope and I work every day to let others with this disease know that there is hope because there is. Real hope that they can change their lives, not live a life of despair and hopelessness... and well...vote. I know it's possible. I did it."