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Local nonprofit campaigns for convicted felon voting rights

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A new statewide organization is working to make sure formally convicted felons know about their voting rights.

Together, ACLU of West Virginia and West Virginia Family of Convicted People (WVFCP) are leading an effort to reach thousands of convicted felons informing them that they can vote in the upcoming 2020 election.

In the state of West Virginia, you temporarily lose your born-given right to vote after being convicted of a felony. To restore your voting rights, one must serve their sentence, complete parole and leave state custody.

WVFCP President, Greg Whittington is a former convicted felon who served 15 years for a capital crime.

“I got a letter when I got convicted saying that my rights were taken away. I never got a letter saying that my rights had been restored,” said Whittington.

He would spend the next 10 years fighting for the rights and liberties of those formally incarcerated.

“Would you rather continue to feed us fish or would you rather teach us how to fish ourselves? It is in that state’s best interest to have us involved…” said Whittington.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, he and ACLU-WV staff members gathered contact information to 45,000 formally convicted felons.

“Of the 45,000, if we could reach half of that, 20,000 additional voters in this election definitely could turn a tide in this state.”

ACLU-WV Voting Rights Project Manager, Dijon Stokes said, “it feels like their rights aren’t being regranted back to them, they aren’t being informed about these issues and when that takes place, we feel that there is an injustice… but we’re happy to do this work because we know how much of an impact it has.”

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday leading up to the general election, staff and volunteers will be calling convicted felons to inform them that they can vote this year and help them through the voting process.

“The more we are involved in the process, the more we are in the mainstream, the less likely we are to recidivate,” said Whittington.

Tuesday at 7 p.m. is the first phone bank and the ACLU-WV welcomes volunteers to help out.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to contact ACLU-WV Outreach Director, Mollie Kennedy at mkennedy@acluwv.org. Or express interest on ACLU-WV’s Facebook or WVFCP’s Facebook.

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