Election 2018

Can you vote in PA on probation or parole? An answer for Meek Mill

The formerly incarcerated rapper said he doesn’t know if he’s allowed to cast a ballot.

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Meek Mill delivered a surprise endorsement on Friday with a video backing Gov. Tom Wolf in the upcoming gubernatorial election in which he cited the Democrat’s efforts on criminal justice reform. The black-and-white video announcement also came with a surprising confession: the 31-year-old rapper from North Philly has never voted in an election.

In fact, he said he’s not sure if he legally can.

“My whole life I always wanted to be in part of something important … Me myself, I’ve never voted. I’ve been on probation since I was 18. I don’t even know if I was able to ever vote. But if I ever did cash a vote, my first vote will be you,” Mill told Wolf.

The comment generated a PSA for Mill on social media, one that extends anyone who is formerly incarcerated: Pennsylvania is one of 14 states that automatically restore voting rights after an individual leaves prison.

If you’ve served your time for a felony conviction, you’re free to cast a ballot so long as you’re registered to vote. This includes people living with probation, parole, house arrest, electronic monitoring, or any other post-incarceration legal status, according to the Pa. Board of Probation and Parole.

Pennsylvania even extends voting rights to certain classes of people who are still incarcerated. Those behind bars while awaiting trial on charges, whether felony or a misdemeanor, are constitutionally allowed to register and vote. People convicted of misdemeanors who are serving time are also free to cast their ballot.

Only those currently serving time for a felony conviction on Election Day are barred from voting in state and local elections. Vo

(Side note: Individuals found guilty of violating any provision in the Pennsylvania Election Code are additionally barred from voting for four years — think election workers convicted of voter fraud, which happens from time to time in Philly.)

It’s unclear when the video was filmed or if Mill, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, is registered to vote at all. The registration deadline for the Pa. midterms passed on Oct. 9. The rapper could not be immediately reached for comment.

In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Mill joined dozens of other musicians who are urging their fans to get out and vote in the midterms. Mill does not explicitly say he himself intended to vote.

“We need to use our influence to put the right people in power — leaders who are focused on creating stronger prison rehabilitation programs and updating old probation policies. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to vote this year, and to support lawmakers who are committed to changing the criminal justice system and improving our inner-city communities,” he said, adding another shoutout to Wolf.

He also noted that Election Day will mark a somber personal anniversary. On Nov. 6, 2017, the music icon was sentenced to a two to four year prison sentence over a parole violation. His sentencing sparked another national debate over the criminal justice system — and intense scrutiny into Mill’s complicated, decade-long relationship with Philadelphia Judge Genece Brinkley.

Regardless, voting rights for the formerly incarcerated are a perennial source of confusion, particularly among African Americans and Latinos.

Much of the confusion stems from varying policies from state to state. Many Republican lawmakers across the country continue to limit voting rights for ex-felons.

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, permit voting for individuals who are currently serving felony sentence on Election Day, according to Nonprofit VOTE. Dozens of states — including New Jersey — still require convicts to finish their probation or parole stints before they may cast their ballots again.

But for anyone like Meek in Pennsylvania, your post-incarceration supervision won’t get between you and the voting booth.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2018 stories.

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Voting, Meek Mill