If you noticed a change in the climate at the polls, specifically in the atmospheric pressure due to moisture in the air, it might be because of the meteorological phenomenon known to research scientists as Blubberus caucasianus, more commonly referred to as “white tears.” Lost in the hullabaloo surrounding Democratic victories around the country on Election Day Tuesday is the fact that Republicans are throwing tantrums because thousands of former felons were allowed to vote for the first time.
Business Insider estimates that 6.1 million people were unable to vote in the 2016 general election because they had been previously convicted of a felony. Twelve states—Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming—restrict voting rights even after a person has completed a prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole.
The issue affects blacks more than any other group. Nationally, African Americans are four times more likely to lose their voting rights, according to the Sentencing Project. About 2.2 million black people, or 1 out of every 13 black adults, are barred from voting, compared with 1 out of every 56 nonblack Americans.
But organizers across the country have recently mounted efforts to help previously convicted citizens regain their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. Tuesday’s elections saw ex-offenders parading to the polls to make sure their voices were heard.
Virginia is one of the states that bar convicted former felons from voting, but the state’s constitution grants the governor the power to reinstate voting rights.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe decided to exercise that power in bulk, granting the restoration of voting rights to any nonviolent offender who has completed his or her sentence (including fines, fees and restitution). On Tuesday, many of these citizens exercised their newly recovered right to vote.
Republicans were predictably upset about this, because ... umm ... well, no one really can explain why. Apparently, they believe that voting makes ex-offenders murder people or something.
Apparently, enrolling in the Republican Party automatically erases the part of their memory when they learned that voting is a constitutional right afforded to every citizen. Or maybe racism has blocked the hormonal gland that produces logic, so they don’t realize that anyone who has completed a sentence has paid his or her debt to society. (I’m just spitballing here, but I’m pretty sure my theory is based on actual science.)
Despite the wet, tear-soaked tissues from Donald Trump supporters, the effort to restore the rights to former felons continues. But it is still a problem. According to Quartz, 51 percent of the people disenfranchised by felon vote restrictions have completed every phase of their sentencing. The fight must continue, even if Republicans are angry. We must continue to push this cause not just because of the Constitution, fairness or equality, but for the most important reason of all: