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'I turned my life around': Wisconsin women work to empower ex-felons on voting rights

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Posted at 3:46 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 18:52:34-04

MILWAUKEE — With just two and half weeks until Election Day, community groups are working to make sure all eligible voters are registered - and that includes those who have served time behind bars.

In Wisconsin, ex-felons have their voting rights restored once they complete their sentence and are no longer under supervision, but not everyone knows that.

"I was on probation or parole for like 30 years okay, that was another life. I turned my life around since then," said Ouida Lock.

Ouida remembers the first time she voted after serving time.

"It just gave me a new freedom. It made me be a part of society versus being ostracized from society," said Ouida.

Now she works with a neighborhood organization called Uniting Garden Homes in Milwaukee, making sure voters are registered and ex-felons know their rights.

The group's acting president, Desilynn Smith-Abd Al Aabbar, says ex-offenders are often surprised to learn they have a right to vote.

"At one point it was stressful, but now it is my motivation to know that I have knowledge that I can empower people with," said Desilynn.

"We know that people are not their past or their mistakes and your voice matters," she added.

According to the Wisconsin Election Commission, once you complete your sentence and supervision, you automatically regain your eligibility to vote. You must re-register to vote.

Ouida left us with this message:

"Your vote matters and please if you don’t wanna vote for yourself vote for the kids. Vote for your grandmother. Just get out there and vote," said Ouida.

Click here to find voting information for ex-felons and people who are incarcerated.

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