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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

WA voting rights bill for people in prison would ‘restore humanity'

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Thursday, January 25, 2024   

Legislation in Olympia could give people in Washington prisons their voting rights.

House Bill 2030, known as the Free the Vote Act, would allow people to vote in elections - potentially granting that right to more than 14,000 people in the state's prisons.

Charles Longshore, a Skokomish tribal member, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2012 and is serving a 35-year sentence in a prison north of Olympia.

He said Black, indigenous and other people of color are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.

"We have been disenfranchised," said Longshore. "Our humanity has been taken, and primarily minority people are still continuing to be denied access to the polls."

Incarcerated people are allowed to vote in Maine, Vermont, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Republicans have expressed opposition to the bill - as well as Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs' office, which said voting rights shouldn't be given to people "who have not yet paid their debt to society."

Anthony Blankenship - a leadership team member with Free the Vote WA - said if people behind bars were able to vote, they would feel more connected with their communities, which would also make them less likely to reoffend.

"Building that sense of civic engagement, civic learning, and care about your community," said Blankenship, "is what we're hoping to do with this bill."

Longshore said it's hard to feel like a citizen when he doesn't have the right to vote.

"Our goal is to rehabilitate people and bring them home and make them better men or women than they were when they came in," said Longshore. "You can't do that without restoring their right to vote and making them whole and making us feel included and a part of the state."



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