Should American citizens who have been convicted of crimes and served their time have their right to vote restored? The question is a political issue, part of a voting-rights debate that is being fought in the states and among political candidates. To ex-felons, it can be a personal challenge, as well: Will their votes matter, and why should they care? The rapper 2 Chainz, made the case for the vote at a pre-show stop at the Urban League of Central Carolinas in Charlotte on Saturday. He told his story for 40 young people, a few with criminal records. The 35-year-old Atlanta-based performer said he was first arrested at age 15 for cocaine possession. When it came to voting, he thought he was “counted out” and didn’t know he was eligible until he picked up a brochure at a registration drive at an Atlanta mall. Along with 10 friends, he recruited from his recording studio, “I walked around with a sticker the whole day” they voted. “I felt rejuvenated,” he said. “I felt like a citizen again.”
To supporters, restoring voting rights to former felons is a logical and positive step, a way to give them a stake in the world outside prison walls. That was the point of the weekend workshop organized by the Washington-based Hip-Hop Caucus and its “Respect My Vote” campaign, a nonpartisan mobilization and education effort focused particularly on young voters.