CLEVELAND - Are you registered to vote? It's a question we're hearing more and more as we get closer to November 6.
Voting is a right we all have, but what many don't know is that it's a right convicts or ex-offenders share as well.
Mike Jones, leader of the group Breaking the Cycle, Inc., took on that task Saturday, by going out to Cleveland's east side to register those unregistered ex-offenders.
"I myself am an ex-offender," said Jones, "I did four and a half years in prison. I have a state number and I have a Fed. number."
Helping ex-convicts to get back on track is something that hits close to home for Jones. He knows first-hand what it's like to build your life again once out of prison. As head of Breaking the Cycle Inc., he shares his knowledge with other ex-offenders so they, too, can once again become productive members of society.
"That's the first thing an ex-felon should be doing, saying you know what, 'I entered this community. I want to do something to give back. I want to make sure that people know that this time I've changed,’” said Johnnie Dent Jr., a volunteer helping Jones.
Both Dent and Jones agreed, one of the most important ways to give back is by voting
Saturday, Jones and volunteers partnered with Organizing for America, the same group that supports President Barack Obama. But Jones said the entire day meant more to him than just politics.
"The biggest thing the ex-offender population needs is hope. So when you tell them you can vote, they're hopeful that their vote does make a difference so they can take back control,” Jones said. “The name of this event is ‘Take Back Your Voice,’ so we're allowing them the opportunity to exercise their rights and take back their voice."
Unlike other states, Jones said in the state of Ohio, you can vote up until you're convicted. He also said you can vote the day you come out of prison, even if you are on parole or probation, but most ex-offenders just don't know it.
"That's why days like this are important. Even if you just sign up a few, that's important," Jones said. Right after, he turned to a small group and said, "Ya'll registered to vote?"
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