Hip-hop artist 2 Chainz – sporting sunglasses and two very big, gold necklaces – has become the latest celebrity to release a video on the issue of voting rights restrictions.
In the video, the rapper talks about the fact that he became a felon at around 15 years of age and had always thought it was too late for him to vote.
“What up, what up,” he says. “It’s your playing partner 2 Chainz and I am, was, still is a felon.”
The video is produced by Respect My Vote!, a group that calls itself, “the only major non-partisan, hip-hop voter mobilization campaign of the election cycle,” with a focus on educating young people of color on the right to vote.
Expressing regret for his criminal record, 2 Chainz encourages others to research their right to vote.
“You can vote again,” 2 Chainz says. “You just have to have all your restitution paid off and you can’t be on probation or parole. It’s just really easy.”
In fact, the right of felons to vote varies significantly from state to state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 39 states and the District of Columbia, most ex-felons automatically gain the right to vote upon completion of their sentences. Maine and Vermont allow those in jail to vote.
But Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates to reform the scope of voter disenfranchisement, says that 11 states have restrictions on inmates, parolees, probationers and ex-felons, and the patchwork of regulations is confusing. He estimates there are 5.85 million Americans being denied the right to vote because of laws that prohibit voting by people with felony convictions.
“The ways these policies are implemented proves to be very confusing for all involved – both people with felony convictions and election officials themselves,” he says. “As a result of this confusion, the impact of these policies goes well beyond the 5.83 million who are legally disenfranchised, with many additional people incorrectly believing they also cannot vote. ”
Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of a conservative think tank called the Center for Equal Opportunity, says that, as a policy matter, he believes restrictions make sense.
“If you are not willing to follow the law, then you can’t demand the right to make the law for everyone else,” he says. “When you vote, that is what you are doing: You are either making the law directly, in the case of a ballot initiative or a referendum, or you are making it indirectly by choosing lawmakers. ”
Clegg believes the right to vote should be restored, but not automatically .
“It should be done on a case-by-case basis after the person has shown that he has turned over a new leaf,” Clegg says.