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A Local Civil Rights Group Aims To Help Formerly Incarcerated People Vote Next Month

All of Us or None - St. Louis Chapter
Patty Berger (center) said many people with felony convictions do not know they have the right to vote or how to restore it after completing probation. She and other members of All of Us or None hope to educate formerly incarcerated people on the process.

The St. Louis chapter of All of Us or None, a human and civil rights organization, wants to help people with felony convictions register to vote in the November election.

Wednesday is the last day to register to vote in Missouri, and for weeks, members of the group have canvassed neighborhoods to hand out pamphlets that inform people on how to register to vote and how to cast their ballots in the November election.

They want people who who have served time in prison and completed their probation to understand that after becoming registered voters, they can vote in person, absentee or by mail.

Many people who have family members in prison or those who have felony convictions think incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people automatically lose their right to vote for the rest of their lives, said Patty Berger, president of the St. Louis chapter of All of Us or None.

“It's intimidating for someone who's never voted. But talking to someone who is just like you and being reassured that the process is something that you can take care of is very uplifting for people,” Berger said.

Berger was in and out of prison for nearly 15 years for shoplifting. She said that once she completed her probation and had her voting rights restored, she felt like she was a part of society again.

“A lot of times people who've been to prison or have done time or have convictions, they feel a little bit different from everybody else. And this is a way to become part of the civil society again,” Berger said. “I think that people start feeling better about their situation once they can start voting. I know I did.”

All of Us or None is run by formerly and currently incarcerated people who are working to restore the rights of former prisoners and help those still behind bars.

Angela McCurry, who joined the group last year, has never been to prison but has family members and friends who have served time.

McCurry said she is encouraging formerly incarcerated people to vote, because their vote could help those who are still imprisoned.

“For me it is really heartfelt just for our people in general, because we have such a high population in prison, and we need to get involved,” McCurry said.

Berger said she'd like to see more formerly incarcerated people get involved in the community and voice their opinions.

“We hope this knowledge will inspire formerly incarcerated people to vote in other elections and continue to be involved, Berger said. “We will continue to convey how voting is being a part of the community at large.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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