A powerful new video underscores what many persons with felony convictions in Washington state are never told: Once out of custody and no longer under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections, he or she can register to vote.
The 4-minute video – with clips from persons with felony convictions who said they went years thinking they had permanently lost the right to vote – was released by the 2016 graduates of the Washington Leadership Institute (WLI), a program that recruits, trains, and develops minority and traditionally underrepresented attorneys for future leadership positions in the legal community. Two DPD employees – Dua Abudiab and Raymond Delos Reyes – are in this year’s WLI class and helped to produce the video.
A second video also released by the WLI 2016 graduates focuses on persons of color, immigrant communities, and religious minorities, many of whom have historically been disenfranchised. The 5-minute video is meant to inspire and encourage, reminding members of these communities about both their right to vote and the importance of doing so.
The two videos will now be shared widely via a social media campaign in an effort to spread the word at a critical time in the country’s political landscape. Dua said she and her colleagues in the program decided the political issues of the day called for such a response. “I think these videos show that we care and that their votes are just as important as anyone else’s votes,” she said.
The decision to focus on persons with felony convictions was particularly important to Dua and Raymond. “We wanted a video that directly served a portion of the community we work with,” Raymond said. What’s more, the message that felons can regain the right to vote is one few of them hear. Even several of the WLI participants had no idea, Dua said. “When we realized that we as attorneys didn’t know this, we realized others folks probably don’t either,” she said.
The WLI graduates will now work hard to get the videos distributed. They’ve set up a website, www.diversevotes.org, and have started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #diversevotes. They also plan to share the videos with community partners and organizations, so that they, in turn, can share them with the people they serve.
“Our next step is to get these videos out into the community,” Raymond said.