68 year old veteran votes for first time after probation
DUBLIN, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — A 68-year-old man in Dublin will vote for the first time in November.
Elijah Bell served in the United States Marines and calls the Dublin VA home. Bell says he spent 12 months on probation nearly 30 years ago, which made him ineligible to vote.
“When I was young I had got a little trouble,” said 68 year old veteran Elijah Bell.
Bell says that’s why he never registered to vote in the first place. He says back in the late 1980’s, he was on probation for a year for drug related charges. He was put on probation instead of going to prison, because it was his first offense.
According to Georgia Reform, an advocacy group for criminal justice reform, if someone is on probation, parole or in prison, they can’t vote.
“It is only after those sentences are complete and any penalty fines and legal fines have been paid that they regain their eligibility to vote,” said Maxwell Ruppersburg Executive Director Georgia Reform.
Ruppersburg says convicted felons must re-register to vote. He says people who have been convicted and completed their sentence, are eligible to vote once their probation or parole ends, and they receive a certificate of sentence completion.
“They need to register with the secretary of state online like anybody else,” said Ruppersburg.
When asked, can a convicted felon lose their right to vote permanently for a conviction in their past? Ruppersburg said no.
Bell says after nearly 33 years, he found out he is eligible to vote 2 weeks ago. He says he’s ready to use his voice against injustice.
“Police brutality for one thing, and I would like to see more healthcare for senior citizens and black and brown race,” shared Bell.
Bell says he’s looking forward to participating in the voting and election process, and shared this message with everyone.
“Just vote. Whoever you want to vote for just get out and vote,” emphasized Bell.
Ruppersburg says in 2018, Georgia had over 264,000 people who were ineligible to vote due to an active felony sentence.