UMSI students help returning citizens get back to voting
UMSI students are working with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Voting Matters Initiative (VMI) to deliver better information about voting rights for returning citizens.
In Michigan, returning citizens, or formerly incarcerated people reentering society, are eligible to vote after their release from incarceration. This also includes citizens currently awaiting trial and sentencing. Returning citizens are among the many constituencies that VMI is trying to reach in its efforts to reduce voting barriers.
Heaster Wheeler, Michigan’s assistant secretary of state, said approximately “8,000 to 9,000 people return home from Michigan prisons every year.” He continued, “That’s especially significant for people of color. African Americans and Black and brown people are overly represented in the prison population.”
The MSI students -- Amrita Das, Ashley Hue Hampton and Matthew Garvin -- were tasked with creating a solution for connecting with these eligible voters to address misconceptions, voter apathy and confusion about voting rights.
After months of work, the MSI students presented a social media tool kit available for public use.
Amrita Das said, “We chose [the tool kit] because graphics can be easier to understand if made well and are an inexpensive option. Most adults, 52%, get their news from Facebook, according to Pew Research, so it’s a good foundation to lean on.” The students noted that many returning citizens don’t have permanent addresses, so social media distribution was more practical than informational postcards.
The tool kit includes state voting timelines, carousels of common myths alongside facts and graphics with details. The tool kit will help SOS partner with nonprofits working with returning citizens and community leaders. .
SOS employees were grateful for the opportunity to partner with UMSI students and for their work on the initiative. They are optimistic that the state will see greater turnout among returning citizens.
Wheeler said, “We want all of the citizens of our great state to use all of our political power.”
For more information and voting resources visit michigan.gov/vote.