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Editorial: Once sentence is served, all can vote

The Editorial Advisory Board
Topeka Capital-Journal

As we wade our way out of election season in Kansas, here’s an important fact to remember: People who have been convicted of a felony and served their sentence are able to vote.

The rules are laid out in a publication from the secretary of state’s office that can be found online. Put simply, if someone is convicted of a federal or state felony charge, he or she can’t vote while serving the sentence. Make special note, too, that the sentence includes time spent on parole or probation.

Once that time is up, however, a person can re-register to vote.

This is important to both note and praise. Everyone’s voice is important in choosing leaders and in guiding our society forward. Those with experience in the criminal justice system have experiences that many other Kansans don’t. They should bring that perspective to election season and beyond.

Our state should also make sure that this information is communicated to people finishing up their sentences. Voting is a precious privilege, and we should want everyone who is able to participate fully aware and informed about how to do so.

We have spent the life of this county, the United States of America, working to form a more perfect union. That means that we’ve been devoted throughout the decades to expanding the franchise — the right to vote — to more and more people.

We didn’t get it right at first. The vote was denied to many groups, but as the years passed more and more took it. Battles were fought. Lengthy campaigns were waged.

More and more people now are able to freely cast a ballot for the candidates of their choosing. That’s an unequivocal good thing.

But we can’t go backward. Bogus claims of voter fraud and other culture war signifiers (such as claiming that cities with large Black populations are somehow corrupt) are threatening our democracy. State legislatures may well try to make it more difficult to vote in the years ahead. That’s unacceptable.

The right to vote at its most basic level is the right to participate in our country’s public affairs. In Kansas, we’ve shown that we won’t hold your past against you. What counts is making a better future for everyone.