JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi is one of only four states imposing a lifetime voting ban on everyone convicted of certain crimes. More than half of those folks have completed their sentences. You’ll often hear the phrase, commit the crime and do the time. Here in Mississippi, there’s a big consequence that sticks with some offenders for life, regardless of the time they serve.
“I have done everything possible to turn my life around," said Wayne Kuhn. "In December 2017, I even had my record expunged. I no longer have a criminal record in the state of Mississippi yet I’m still unable to vote.”
It’s not every felony that results in a lifetime voting ban. But 22 do. They’re considered “disenfranchising offenses”. That was the case for Dennis Hopkins who was convicted 20 years ago of grand larceny and served his sentence.
“I feel like if I have to pay my taxes, I should able to say hey I have a right to say where my taxes go," noted Hopkins. "I shouldn’t have to pay you and sit down and get in the corner.”
Hopkins has nine children and has even served as a foster parent in North Mississippi.
“I was found good enough in the state of Mississippi to foster children and control somebody else’s life and somebody else’s kids but I’m not thought of as the type of person that should be able to vote,” added Hopkins.
This hearing gives the Senate Judiciary B committee the chance to hear from a handful of folks who are living with the ban. But they’re representative of tens of thousands of Mississippians.
“You already paid your debt when you actually served your sentence," said Sen. Derrick Simmons to one of the men following their testimony.
There is a legislative process that allows individuals to request their voting rights be restored. Those are considered on a case by case basis. Judiciary B Chairman Hob Bryan would like the issue to get more study. He doesn’t know that a change will come in 2019 legislative session but he wants to continue the discussions.