Right2Vote Campaign update

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by Amani Sawari

I cannot express all the gratitude I feel having such a community of support behind the Right2Vote Campaign. Prisoners’ brave and courageous National Prison Strike allowed us to build a foundation for the campaign, through which we’ve been able to ignite a movement.

The fire lit by prisoners’ 10 demands is spreading from prisons to allies and families, grassroots groups, students and national organizations. Each of these groups has latched on to the 10 demands differently.

Fulfilling each demand will require attacking them at every possible angle until we wear down the prison investors, legislators and prison officials. I’m excited that we already have 11 states participating in the Right2Vote Campaign! The legislation that’s been introduced this year to end felony disenfranchisement is listed below:

  • Washington: SB 5076 & SB 5207
  • California: ACA 6
  • New Mexico: HB 57
  • Missouri: HB 508
  • Louisiana: HB 265
  • Kentucky: SB 238
  • South Carolina: H 4048
  • New York: S1931 & A4987
  • Massachusetts: SD25 & SD26
  • New Jersey: A3456 & S2100
  • Illinois: HB 2541 & SB2090

The newest issue of the Right2Vote Report has just been released, with full updates about the second R2V Tour as well as updates on our R2V legislation progress nationwide: http://sawarimi.org/right2vote-report.

R2V Tour 2: New Jersey, Massachusetts, D.C.

Two weekends ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit organizers on the east coast. First, I attended “And Justice for All” at Raritan Valley Community College in support of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Following that, I rode a train to Boston to visit the Emancipation Initiative organizers leading the campaign in Massachusetts. Both states are taking the lead, pushing for full enfranchisement.

This past weekend I also had the opportunity to present information about the Right2Vote Campaign to students at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Students were heavily engaged in discussions about how to fully enfranchise all citizens in the U.S., regardless of their incarceration status. I look forward to traveling to more campuses to help students organize around the issue.

National Online Petition

Earlier last week we launched a national petition in support of all states with legislation introduced to end felony disenfranchisement. This petition demonstrates the national movement taking place to restore prisoners’ voting rights. With the 2020 election making prisoners’ voting rights a national priority, this is our opportunity to harness the energy being created by recent presidential campaigns’ discussions.

Appeal to the UN: Amend the 13th

Our work initiating legislation is in alignment with the National Prison Strike Demand No. 2: “An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.”

We will be appealing to the United Nations to call for the United States to repeal the exception clause – or slavery clause – of the 13th Amendment, which effectively invalidates the abolition of slavery. I’ve posted the letter, developed by Richard A. Smith, incarcerated in Pennsylvania, in order to collect endorsement to list onto the letter in preparation of its delivery: http://sawarimi.org/appeal-to-the-united-nations.

Please circulate and encourage others to sign on. You can sign on as an individual, group or organization. We encourage any supporter worldwide to sign on. We plan to deliver this letter to U.N. Secretary António Guterres – on twitter @antonioguterres – by the time the General Assembly session opens in September.

Next Tasks

Sign the national petition.

Endorse the U.N. appeal letter.

Download and print the Right2Vote Newsletter for distribution.

Again, thank you all for your support in this movement. Incredible progress has been made in just this first quarter of the year – a testament to the strength of our community. Please reply with any questions or suggestions you may have related to the topics presented. Remember: We always move forward, faster, together.

Amani Sawari is the spokesperson for Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, coordinated the 2018 National Prison Strike and now, as a Roddenberry Fellow, is coordinating the Right2Vote Campaign for prisoners’ right to vote. She can be reached at amanisawari@gmail.com or @Sawarimi or by mail to 14419 Greenwood Ave. N., Ste A #132, Seattle WA 98133. Visit her website, http://sawarimi.org.

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