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Coloradans on parole registering to vote thanks to 2019 law

When the law passed last year, the Secretary of State's Office said it made more than 11,000 Coloradans on parole newly eligible to vote.

AURORA, Colo. — For the first time in a long time, Carl Schumann will cast a vote this year.

He said he’s pretty excited about it.

“I’m actually a citizen again,” he said. “To me, that’s cool.”

Schumann, 63, was just released from prison in May. He’s been incarcerated off and on since the mid-1980s, he said, for crimes like theft and bank robbery.

Now he’s on parole and newly registered to vote, thanks to a new Colorado law passed in 2019.

RELATED: People on parole can now vote, thanks to a new law in Colorado

“My whole thing is, you can’t complain about what’s going on if you’re not going to vote," he said. "Find the candidate that best suits you, and if that’s what you want, go vote.”

Schumann works with the Second Chance Center in Aurora, an organization that helps people transition from incarceration back into society. Part of that process includes voting.

“Having the ability to vote brings you back into the community as a citizen,” said Jaime Ray, the civic engagement leader for Second Chance. “Being able to make those choices and those laws that are going to impact you.”

When the new law took effect last year, the Secretary of State’s Office said more than 11,000 parolees were newly-eligible to vote.

Second Chance Center was involved in getting the new law passed, and since then has worked with other organizations to engage parolees and get them registered to vote. Schumann and some of the other formerly incarcerated Second Chance clients are now helping with this project.

“In the past week, they have registered over 45 people to vote,” Ray said. “I have four guys that have done nothing but wanting to get involved and give back to society. They were incredible.”

RELATED: Colorado parolees allowed to vote for the first time

The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) has partnered with 20 community re-entry programs around the state, and so far registered about 300 paroles to vote since the new law took effect. CCJRC says the pandemic slowed down some of their efforts, but in a new, expedited push that started in September, they are reaching out to a list of 5,000 eligible parolees.

Schumann and other newly-registered voters enter an especially intense election season. But beyond the presidential and Senate races, there are plenty of other issues on the ballot.

Schumann is particularly interested in criminal justice issues – like District Attorney races. After all, these are the decisions that impact people like him directly.

“Have a voice,” he encouraged.“This is your chance to have a voice, maybe make an impact.”

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