Statewide bus tour assisting to restore voter registration under new law

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- Two leading groups in voting rights victory help convicted felons become registered voters

A statewide bus tour is happening this week to register nearly 40,000 voters. This comes after voting rights were restored earlier this year for convicted felons. 

Last year, formerly incarcerated leaders helped pass Act 636, a major voting rights victory in this history of felony disenfranchisement.

The law went into effect on March 1 of this year, and our goal is to register the roughly 40,000 people who became eligible on that day.

That includes anyone who is off probation or parole; has been on parole for at least five years or is on probation and hasn’t received a new conviction.

About 12,000 people in the greater Lafayette area who haven’t been able to vote for years because of criminal convictions may finally have that opportunity come this October. 

“It finally came true. A big dream came alive.” Gripping his paperwork with pride, Lionel Dugas didn’t believe this day would come after spending many years behind bars.

“I thank God and I thank everybody and every resource that came together. It came together in one paperwork. I have it right here in my hand,” he said. 

Since he was released from jail he turned his life around. Dugas joins the nearly 40,000 convicted felons to have their voting rights restored this year. 

“It’s a great feeling to know that you’re apart of this and you’re getting people involved in their civic opportunities,” said Kelly Garrett, the policy counsel for Voice of the Experienced (V.O.T.E.) 

She is one of many to spearhead this movement. Now V.O.T.E. has joined Black Voters Matter to make registration more accessible across the state. “To learn about more of what’s going to be on the ballot, because a lot of these individuals have never voted before for one reason or another. They’re very excited to now be apart of the process,” said Garrett. 

The name of the campaign is “40-K rising” and it’s picking up momentum since the major voting rights victory.

“That part of what has to happen is as we’re building power in our community, we know that what makes a difference is when people are engaged in the process,” said Lotasha Brown with Black Voters Matter. 

New voters like Dugas believe it gives them a voice and fortitude to keep striving to become a better citizen. 

“This is a big change for everything and everybody. It makes a big difference for me,” Dugas added. 

The voter registration bus tour continues in Shreveport and Monroe Tuesday then travels to New Orleans on Wednesday. 

September 21st is the deadline to register to vote in the October elections. 

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