Kenneth Inniss, 56, has not voted in a U.S. election since 1984, when he first went to prison for a felony conviction. He is now out but will have to wait one more year until he is off parole to vote. “It’s a right that we take for granted until it’s taken from us,” he said. “And that’s when it really hit home for me. I don’t have a say in how those laws are keeping me incarcerated.” Inniss recently packed into a glossy black van with eight other formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and embarked on a road trip to Cleveland, Ohio. The group had a simple mission: Inform Ohio ex-prisoners of their right to vote.
In Ohio, a key swing state in the upcoming presidential election, former felons can vote as soon as they are released from prison. They don’t have to wait until they are off parole, a post-release period during which former inmates are monitored for good behavior.
Emblazoned on the vehicle’s side, in blue — beneath a logo of a dove escaping bars — was a slogan: “Building people, not prisons.”
“I can’t vote, so let me try to encourage at least five other people — family members and friends — by talking about political issues and how they affect us. And why you should vote,” Inniss said.