As you know, I make music for a living. I record songs that are the soundtrack to many people’s love lives, perhaps even yours. And I’m sure a portion of my fans would prefer I focus more on my job as a singer, and less on the hard issues facing our country today.
But I refuse to turn a blind eye. It might not make me more popular, but I strongly believe that the only way we can move forward in this country is by working together. We must use our voices to ensure our leaders in government represent and serve the best interests of everyone in this country.
When I say everyone, that includes those who are currently in prison. It’s easy for many of us to forget, but no one stops being a citizen once they’re incarcerated. That’s why I urge you to send an email to your lawmakers, asking them to vote in favor of SB 571, which would restore the voting rights of 13,000 Oregonians currently in prison.
When we talk about restoring the right to vote to those in prison, we need to remember what NOT restoring those rights means.
It means those affected by the decisions of our democracy no longer have a say in how it’s run. For example, in Oregon, 75% of the women in prison are mothers. They have children who are affected by the decisions that elected officials make. Restoring the right to vote is an incredibly powerful way to keep people connected to their communities, ensuring that they have the chance to help shape the future for their loved ones.
It also means perpetuating a racist legacy. No state in America can escape the racialized reality of our criminal legal system and Oregon is no exception. Oregon’s law preventing those in prison from voting dates to the 1850s, when the state constitution was written with the clear intention of creating a state for white people, with laws written to exclude Black, Asian, and Indigenous people. In the present day, the disproportionate rates of incarceration of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people means they are disproportionately disenfranchised. When you restore the right to vote, that is racial justice in action.
When it comes to voting, other states are watching and inspired by Oregon’s commitment to upholding the right to participate in our democracy. You all have done so much to make voting simple and accessible. This is another chance for Oregon to prove its commitment to upholding a citizen’s inalienable right to vote.
I’ve gotten to witness firsthand the joy on people’s faces when they get their voting rights back. Those in Oregon’s prisons deserve to feel that same joy. I urge you to send an email to your lawmakers so they restore the voting rights of Oregonians currently in prison.
It is through your wisdom, your courage, and your support of restoring voting rights that we are going to build a country that includes and values everyone.
Thank you all so much.