Voter Registration is Not Just for Voting

The most recent election caused many individuals stress and anguish in the process of voting for the most qualified person for the job of President of the United States. Many candidates were vying for the Republican nod and only a few for the Democratic nod.  In the end, a seasoned politician, Hillary Clinton, went up against businessman, Donald Trump.  Many people argued that he has had so many failed business ventures, which included some bankruptcies, and people did not understand how he made it that far.  Everyone was certain that Hillary would win the election only to find out with excruciating disappointment that the non-politician won.  We can speculate the reasons why he won the election, and it’s certainly not because he was the most qualified candidate for the job, in my opinion.  Whether we agree on the candidates or not, the person in office currently is the one who will run the country.

Many individuals decided not to vote during this recent presidential election. Some stated they lost faith in government and didn’t feel like wasting their time.  Others were not motivated to vote at all because they felt like their vote didn’t count.  Even though many individuals understood that their ancestors fought and died for the right to vote, that did not matter.  What people need to understand is that voting is necessary for each election (local and state) and not just the presidential election.

It’s just as important, if not more important, to vote in the local and state elections as well as senate elections because the individuals who represent the people in congress are the ones who make the decisions to move forward with certain bills to create laws. So it is crucial to vote in every election so that the best-qualified candidate is in office to represent you, your family and your community. Your job doesn’t just stop at the election.  Elected officials need to be held accountable for their actions to make sure that your needs and the needs of the community are met also to make sure that they keep the promises they made to get elected.

Here’s a caveat to the voting process.  Did you know, concerning individuals who have criminal records, “In 48 states (all but Maine and Vermont) and in the District of Columbia, citizens lose the right to vote upon conviction of a felony; the right is also lost upon conviction of a misdemeanor,” as stated on the ACLU website.  However, all is not lost because it is possible to regain the right to vote.  The individual affected by this situation has to do the work to get back on the voting roster.  Here is another fact, did you know that a felony conviction can prevent you from becoming a juror?  If you’re like many people whom I have spoken with, you might not care too much about this, but being left out of the juror selection database is a MAJOR problem.  The names of registered voters are a part of the pool of names used to select those who will be placed into the jury selection database.

Many people think serving on a jury is a pain and a waste of time.  However, an individual’s ability to serve on a jury could mean life or death to a person accused of a crime.  Remember, everyone accused of a crime is not guilty, but if you’re not “seated at the table,” listening to the evidence, that person could be convicted in the blink of an eye.  Can you imagine being convicted of a crime that you did not commit and you wind up sitting and rotting in a jail cell for 20, 30, 40, 50 years?  In some cases, the DNA evidence could have cleared a person, but instead, a biased jury sent a person to jail and on appeal, the DNA evidence shows that the person was telling the truth – 40 years later…Let that sit in your spirit for a minute.  It has happened time and time again and in our lifetime we see this happening more and more.

Your service on a jury is vital to a person’s life because if you’re not seated at the table helping to make the determination a person’s guilt or innocence, then that person can be up a creek without a paddle.  What if that person was innocent and you’re not there to save them?  I’m not saying every case that goes before a jury has an innocent person accused of a crime.  What I am saying is that our system is quite flawed, jury pools can be tainted and oftentimes innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit.  If people do not care enough to get involved because they feel “jury duty is boring” or because they have something else better to do, then that is a tragedy.

So, here are the scenarios:  1. Individuals who have been convicted of a crime can automatically be left out of the juror database. 2. Some individuals refuse to serve on jury duty because they have better things to do.  3. Individuals who are not registered voters are not counted in the jury database.  If these scenarios are true, who will we have serving on jury duty?  Your voter registration is not just for voting for the President of the United States.  It means so much more.  We have a responsibility and being a registered voter is not just to pay homage to our ancestors, but to make sure that individuals are indeed getting a fair trial by serving as a juror.  It frustrates me to hear people saying that they don’t want to serve on a jury and make excuses not to go.  That is very infuriating to me, and I find that type of thinking to be ignorant.  Someone’s life could be hanging in the balance and people are concerned about their time?  What if the shoe was on the other foot? How would you feel to not see equal representation of all races in a jury box if you were accused of a crime you didn’t commit?  How would you feel if you didn’t see anyone who looked like you in the jury box because of the various scenarios I previously mentioned?  You probably wouldn’t feel too confident.

I’m going to end with a true story.  Some years ago, I received a Juror Selection form in the mail.  I’m one of those individuals who gets excited about that for many reasons.  1.  I love participating in the court process and performing my civic duty; 2.  I don’t see individuals who look like me represented a lot so my representation is very important; 3. I want to be a part of the process simply because everyone is not guilty – EVERYONE has the right to due process.  After I received my juror selection form, I sent it back in stating that I was available to serve.  On the mailer, there is a phone number to call to make sure that your juror number is on the list to report for duty. Individuals are required to call the number the night before to see if they’re required to serve.  I called and was glad to know that I was selected.

When I arrived at the courthouse, I viewed a video with the other jurors and after the video, we waited to see if our number would be called.  I am happy to say that my number was one of the numbers called and off I went to the courtroom.  The judge gave us instructions and soon 12 jurors were selected to sit in the jury box and answer questions that the attorneys asked.  If an individual gave an answer that an attorney was not comfortable with, that person would be dismissed and another juror, seated in the courtroom, was called to sit in the jury box seat of the person who was dismissed.

My number was called and off I went to sit in the jury box.  I was asked a battery of questions.  I answered all of the questions and waited to be dismissed by the attorneys (at least that was my assumption).  I didn’t think I would be selected because the majority of the individuals in the jury pool did not look like me.  Well, to my surprise I stayed.  I was even more surprised that I would be the Foreperson – Juror Number One.  The pressure was on, but I was so proud to be a part of the process.

We heard all of the evidence against the person who was accused of assault and violating a restraining order.  Let me just say this, I have ZERO tolerance for men who physically and verbally abuse women, however, after listening to the evidence, the accuser’s story didn’t seem truthful.  Some of the jurors were ready to convict him as guilty, but my gut instinct told me otherwise.  I kept replaying the scenario in my mind of what happened the night the person was accused of the assault and what happened prior to that moment and then it hit me – her statement about the restraining order and the reason why she obtained it was flawed.  The accuser and the accused were romantically involved as they had children together.  The accuser stated that the accused slammed her face into a steering wheel, which should have left serious bruises because of her light skin tone.  Based upon the police report, there was no evidence of that.  When she placed the restraining order against him, he moved out of state to start his life over.

When she got sick and needed to have surgery, instead of calling her family to take care of her children, she called him to come back to care for the children.  I believe she did that because she knew he still loved her and would do anything for her – she used him.  Even though he lived out of state, he quit his job and came back because of his love for her and the children.  She nullified that restraining order by calling him back as she lied about him being a threat to her, and I felt that she was the dominant one in the relationship.  As she got better and he prepared to leave, she became enraged and accused him of assault and violating his restraining order.  There was so much more to the story, but based on the evidence, we found him not guilty of assault.  That “not guilty” verdict would not have happened if I wasn’t a part of that jury because the majority of the individuals were ready to convict him without fully examining the evidence.  I think a lot of the other juror’s thoughts had to do with preconceived biases, and I was determined to break through those thoughts.

Several months later, my mother and I were getting something to eat at a local restaurant, and the man, who I helped keep out of jail, and I almost ran into each other.  I was shocked to see him.  He yelled, “Hey!!!” He was so excited to see me.  I felt very humbled in that moment.  He kept saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” and I said to him that he was welcome, but he didn’t do anything wrong so I could not say he was guilty when in my heart I believed he wasn’t.  He was ever so thankful and so nice, and I was glad to be able to be a part of the process that didn’t send another innocent person to jail.

We have to get involved.  Please register to vote so that you can vote in all elections, but also to do your civic duty and be potentially selected for jury duty.  If you receive a juror summons, please commit yourself to serving. Someone’s life could depend on it.

Live, laugh, love and pray.

God Bless You with Good Health and Wellness,

Antoinette

Antoinette Shar’ron Johnson

antoinette@writingsbyasj.com

writingsbyasj@gmail.com

http://www.writingsbyasj.com

Blog: http://www.livinginyourmoment.wordpress.com

Twitter:  @ASJthewriter

Instagram: @ASJthewriter

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/antoinetteshar’ronjohnson

 “Empowering, inspiring, motivating and uplifting your mind, body and spirit!”

Sources:  https://www.aclu.org/other/voting-criminal-record-executive-summary

http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/jury-service/juror-qualifications

http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/jury-service/learn-about-jury-service

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