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Rep. Ford to pass bill allowing felons to run for public office

Photo Caption: REPRESENTATIVE LA SHAWN FORD (D-8th) (right) is introducing a bill that if passed would allow those convicted of felonies to run for public office. He and retired Northeastern Illinois University professor Robert Starks (left) also agreed with Reverend Al Sharpton, who called Democrats the “dreamers” and Republicans the “schemers.”

Representative La Shawn Ford (D-8th) revealed he is introducing a bill that if passed will allow ex-offenders convicted of felonies to run for public office because, he says, once they have paid their dues, they have a right to run and serve.

Saying there are many such people qualified to run for office on the state and local levels, Ford said people with felonies who are not criminals but who have paid their debt to society should have the right to run for office.

Ford pointed to Debra Vines as an example. Vines ran for Trustee of Maywood and won but couldn’t be sworn into office because she has a felony record. In an interview with the Chicago Crusader, she commended Ford for proposing the bill allowing felons to run for office in Illinois.

“As someone who has personally experienced the frustration and disappointment of not being able to take a position I had rightfully won, due to my background, I believe it is high time we address this issue and provide equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their past mistakes.

“Granting felons the chance to run for office not only promotes inclusivity and second chances, but it also encourages a more diverse and representative government,” said Vines, who is waiting to be pardoned.

“It is essential that we recognize the potential for growth and redemption in every individual, and this bill is a step toward a more inclusive and fair political landscape in our state.”

In an exclusive interview with the Chicago Crusader Ford said, “If we can allow a president to be indicted in multiple states on multiple charges to run for the highest office in the land, I’m sure we can allow people who have the ability and who have paid their debt to society to also run for election.

“Something is wrong with our outdated system,” said Ford. “We need to make this opportunity work for us.” Ford was referring to former President Donald Trump, the first president in the history of America to face criminal charges and be indicted in four criminal cases for a total of 91 criminal counts.

“If Trump feels it is OK for him to run, then why don’t we allow those who have paid their debt to society to run for office, too.” He said, “We need to pass a state law allowing this to happen. Even if Trump is convicted, he can still be president. He can be president of the United States while sitting in jail. I plan to introduce this bill.”

It is important to him to introduce and pass this bill, Ford said, because many people have echoed his concerns. “They don’t understand why for years they pay taxes, continue to vote but can’t run for office.” He said many Blacks have been wrongfully convicted and have been “railroaded” to jail, and also those who have changed their lives.

“They would fit in well with their experiences, to advocate for people with their past backgrounds,” Ford said. Asked if that includes those convicted of murder, he said once they have paid their dues, “they have the right to live the American dream.

“Many have been convicted of murder but later exonerated. Some have spent 30 years in prison and still come out a felon. We need to have people with those experiences in office as advocates,” said Ford.

Ford, along with activist and retired Northeastern University professor Robert Starks, agreed when asked to respond to Reverend Al Sharpton’s describing the tens of thousands who attended the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington held on August 28.

Sharpton saw the event as the “continuation of a movement” against what he called the “Dreamers and the Schemers.”

Sharpton said, “Sixty-years later, we are facing affirmative action being suspended, and there are people trying to go after businesses. They are going after diversity in large corporations. We are going to fight back. We are not going to let you take affirmative action and diversity plans.”

Saying the movement has created unity among many ethnic groups, Sharpton said the schemers “will not be able to turn back the clock. They want to stop Blacks from voting. No matter how hard you make it, we’re coming anyhow.”

Sharpton added, “The dreamers are in Washington, D.C. The schemers are being booked in Atlanta, Georgia, in the Fulton County Jail,” a reference to Trump’s four indictments over a span of less than five weeks.

“The dreamers will win” and fight back,” he said.

Agreeing with Sharpton regarding the attacks on affirmative action and voting rights, Martin Luther King, III said, “We are going backwards.”

Ford agreed with both Sharpton and Dr. King’s son. “They have reversed affirmative action and ripped out the Voting Rights Act, it’s clearly going backwards. We have to do everything we can to expand the bench where we gain control of the House and the Senate and the White House.

“We need to expand the bench at the federal level,” Ford said, referring to the number of Republican Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. “It’s too unbalanced and it’s definitely dangerous. We need to elect Biden. This is what Trump did to our nation.”

Starks agreed with Ford saying, “There are many people who would love to take America back to past 1965, and we cannot tolerate that. Look at the number of conservative bills in several states they have passed, which reduce how, where and if people can vote.” Ford said there must be a massive voter turnout to ensure changes are made locally and nationally.

“I think the Republicans are clearly dream killers,” said Ford. “They even kill dreams for their own voters. Actually, it is the Democrats who actively provide resources for Republicans and Democrats when the Republicans are down on their luck.

“If it were not for Democrats, poor Republicans would not have health insurance they need to get their preventative care,” he noted. “They wouldn’t be able to get their food stamps to feed their families. The Democrat’s agenda helps the Republicans,” Ford stated.

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