Eau Claire (WQOW) – Representative Jodi Emerson along with State Senator Lena Taylor will be introducing a package of bills called “Unlock the Vote” Wednesday in Madison.
The first bill would grant voting rights to those currently on probation and parole who do not have that right. It amounts to about 66,000 people across the state.
The second bill would take census data for those who are currently incarcerated and send it back to their hometowns. Currently the data collected goes to the community where their correctional facility is located. Representative Emerson spoke with News 18 yesterday about these bills and why it’s important for those citizens and the state.
“The important piece of it is that when people have paid their debt to society, they should be involved and invested in their communities and having somebody have the right to vote gets them invested in their democracy,” she said. “There are studies that show it reduces recidivism, being more engaged in your community means that you are less likely to commit additional crimes, so if this is one way that we can work to reduce crime by giving people the right to vote I think it’s important that we look at this.”
Emerson sees this as the first step in tackling a broader issue that she believes will be a conversation for years to come. She also believes this will hold people in charge of the criminal justice system more accountable.
“Who is going to know the criminal justice system and how it impacts them more than those who have been first hand involved in it? So they’re going to know better than maybe most citizens how the sheriff is treating them, how the DA is treating them and you know a lot of people don’t understand what happens in the court room and how judges are. And i think this holds them accountable to those that they are with on a regular basis.”
These bills are still in the early stages. The next step would be to get a hearing to gain support and sponsors.