The right to vote is only taken away from Oregonians while they are incarcerated in a state prison. The removal of voting rights should not be connected to punishment. It is civic death and an affront to civil liberties. By restoring the right to vote for incarcerated Oregonians, HB 4147 advances our democratic values and recognizes incarcerated Oregonians as fellow citizens with inherent value and dignity.
The right to engage in our democracy by voting is a fundamental right of the people in Oregon and the United States. Our state has adopted strong public policies to support the right to vote by statewide processes such as mail-in voting. However, Oregon continues to prohibit incarcerated Oregonians in our state prisons from voting. This disenfranchisement disproportionately harms Black, Latinx, Indigneous, low-income, and young people who are incarcerated at higher rates than other groups of people in Oregon.
With HB 4147, the Oregon Legislature has the opportunity to restore voting rights to incarcerated Oregonians. This legislation is aligned with our democratic values; it recognizes and treats incarcerated individuals as fellow citizens with inherent value and dignity. As well, by creating strong ties between incarcerated individuals and our democratic processes, this bill increases the chances of incarcerated individuals reintegrating successfully into our communities after incarceration. This helps all our communities be more safe and thrive.