My right to vote: restoring the voice of the reformed

Originally published in Arizona Capitol Times

Governor Hobbs’ recent push to restore voting rights in Arizona struck me profoundly—not as a mere headline in the morning paper, but as an example of hope that the world I re-entered after 15 years of incarceration might finally recognize me as a person, not just a past mistake. Yet, as hopeful as I am, I am equally troubled by the reality that for too long, individuals with criminal histories like mine have been treated as political pawns, our disenfranchisement a strategy wielded for perceived political gain.

Upon my release, I stepped back into a world vastly different from the one I left, carrying with me the knowledge that while I have evolved, societal perceptions linger in a bygone era. The label “convicted felon” or “felon” is brandished like a scarlet letter, dismissing not only my journey of growth but the very essence of who I have become: a businesswoman, an advocate and a contributing member of society. It’s a label that too often convinces society to keep us at arm’s length, denying us opportunities for employment, housing, and yes—the fundamental right to vote.

Voting, for those of us who have served our time, is a profound symbol of reintegration, an act that reaffirms our place as equals within the civic fabric of this nation. To restore our voting rights is to recognize our transformation and to invite us to participate once again as full citizens. It is a concrete step toward true rehabilitation and a confirmation that our voices, rich with the wisdom of second chances, matter.

Inside the walls of prison, I did more than serve time. I engaged in deep self-reflection, pursued education, and emerged not just ready to re-enter society but to add value to it. I, and thousands like me, haven’t simply checked boxes; we have shattered them. We have used the shards to build ladders of success—for ourselves and others who seek to follow in our footsteps of reform.

To those who resist such changes, I challenge you to look beyond the stigma and see the individuals eager to bring positive change to their communities. We are not asking you to forget our pasts; we are asking you to recognize our present and our potential futures. Denying us the right to vote continues a cycle of perpetual punishment, which runs counter to the very ideals of justice and rehabilitation. We, like all our fellow citizens, deserve the chance to influence the policies and decisions that affect us.

In Arizona and across the nation, the conversation about voting rights restoration is not just about policy but about people. It’s about acknowledging that after paying our debt, we should not be perpetually barred from casting a ballot—a right intrinsic to the very foundation of our democracy.

I am more than my worst decision. I am a living example of what it means to transform one’s life and to strive every day to make amends. Restoring my right to vote is to affirm my humanity and citizenship. It’s to recognize the voice of someone who once fell but has stood up, eager and ready to contribute to the collective story of our nation.

So I stand with Governor Hobbs and with all who believe in second chances, asking not for sympathy but for justice. It’s time to end the use of disenfranchisement as a political tool and embrace a vision of a more inclusive democracy. Restore our voting rights and, in doing so, restore our ability to fully participate in and contribute to the society we are once again proud to call our own.

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