By Eagle Newswire
Clarifying voting rights for persons convicted of a felony is House Bill (HB) 2253. A creative license tag to help fund the Juneteenth Festival and commemorate Black Wall Street, HB2256 are bills authored by State Representative Regina Goodwin.
Receiving bipartisan House support, HB 2253 passed off the floor 91-5 and HB 2256 passed 90-1. Goodwin is among 24 Democrats of the 101 member House of Representatives. Sen. Stephanie Bice and Sen. George Young are the senate authors. The bills must now pass on the senate side.
For decades, there has been confusion regarding when a person convicted of a felony can register to vote. Goodwin’s bill to clarify existing law language has passed unanimously out of committee. Goodwin says she was told the bill was not heard on the floor in the past because some house members shut down on just hearing the word felon, even though current Oklahoma law allows felons the right to vote.
The State Election Board, County Election Board and Criminal Justice Reform officials agree the law is confusing and often get questions. Should the bill be signed into law, language on voter registration forms will be changed and made more clear.
Democrats, Republicans, college graduates and those without a high school diploma, all often misunderstand the law. If a person has a five year sentence and is incarcerated for three years, the two years outside must be served before registering to vote. Oklahoma law remains intact.
Current law reads, “Persons convicted of a felony shall be ineligible to register for a period of time equal to the time prescribed in the judgment and sentence.” Often people wrongly believe (for example), if the prison sentence is five years, after the five years are served, one must wait an additional five years.
Goodwin says, the new bill language basically reads, “You are eligible to vote when you have fully served your sentence.” Fully served language includes “any term of incarceration, parole or supervision, or having completed a period of probation.”
Goodwin was motivated to create the bill after meeting an older man sitting in a rocking chair who did not believe he had the right to vote. The man had served his time and had been out of prison for 35 years. Knowledge is power.
The license plate bill was on the heart of Mike Reed, a community activist, and he discussed his idea with Goodwin. The monies from the license plate sales will help fund the Juneteenth Festival on historic Greenwood. The plate will read “Remembering Black Wall Street”. The cost of the license plate is $35. Of that cost, the Juneteenth Festival will receive $25, the tax commission – $8 and the Classroom Supply Fund -$2. A $25 income tax donation check off is also an additional method of public support.
At least 100 license plates must be ordered, should the bill be signed into law. “People are expressing much interest already, we are talking it up and I have collected names,” said Mike Reed. The Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, created with the help of Councilor Hall – Harper and headed by Sherry Gamble Smith will be the agency working with the Dept. of Commerce to direct monies. Smith said, “Juneteenth is one of the premiere festivals in Oklahoma. Every year the festival and audiences get bigger and bigger. We are back on Greenwood!”
The bill stipulates as long as the Juneteenth Festival remains in the historic Greenwood District, license plate funds will be directed to the Juneteenth venue. Goodwin said, “We are excited to keep these bills and our spirited community moving forward.”