FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 Feb. 2020
SELMA, ALA.—Hometown Action, part of the People’s Action national network of grassroots groups, will join The Ordinary People Society (TOPS) in a Backwards March across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on Sunday, March 1 at 2:30 p.m. to demand the restoration of voting rights for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated voters.
“We are proud to stand with TOPS and the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People & Families Movement to demand full voting rights for all Alabamians,” Hometown Action Executive Director Justin Vest said.
March 1, 2020 is the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when marchers led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were met by riot police on Edmund Pettus Bridge. Every year, thousands of marchers return to Selma to commemorate the event.
This is the ninth anniversary of the Backwards March, in which TOPS and FICPFM lead marchers backwards across the bridge, just before the commemorative march, from the Montgomery to the Selma side, as a reminder of those incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons who have been stripped of their voting rights.
Nationwide, more than 6 million people are disenfranchised because of state laws rooted in white supremacy. Millions more don’t vote because they were wrongly told they no longer have the right, because they are or were in prison or have a conviction in our past.
“You are free to vote, even if you don’t know it,” said Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, the founder of TOPS, who leads the Backwards March every year. “And now is the time for you to claim and exercise this right.”
Rev. Glasgow was himself incarcerated and stripped of his right to vote, until he challenged the state of Alabama to restore his voting rights. In 2004, he started going into jails and prisons to register new voters. The state of Alabama tried to stop him, so in 2008 he took them to court and won (Glasgow v. Allen, The State of Alabama).
TOPS has now founded Alabama RACE (Restoring Alabama’s Civic Engagement), a coalition of organizations and volunteers from Hometown Action, the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama Black Womens’ Roundtable, the NAACP and others, to train volunteers and register voters behind bars.
TOPS has registered more than 10,000 voters, and hopes to reach as many of Alabama’s 250,000 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated eligible voters through this new coalition.
“For each voter we register inside a prison or jail, there are two to five loved ones or family members on the outside who are inspired to register, too,” says Glasgow. “That’s the real power of this hidden vote.”
Before November, TOPS plans to register more voters in Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee—four states that, like Alabama, suffer from the legal legacy of Jim Crow—and have partnered with the Just Leadership USA and the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People & Families Movement to then register voters behind bars in thirty states across the nation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Justin Vest, Hometown Action executive director
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, TOPS executive director
About People’s Action
People’s Action is a national network of 40 state and local grassroots, power-building organizations united in fighting for justice. Our organization recently released a vision for a national Homes Guarantee that has already prompted major legislation from champions including U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. We operate the largest progressive rural organizing project in the country. Prior to endorsing a candidate for president, we completed a national forum series that included Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Andrew Yang. The Nation called our Iowa forum the “most in-depth, people-powered forum” of the 2020 cycle.