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Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009

Issue of the Week: Restoring the Vote

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

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Wisconsin legislators should restore the voting rights of about 42,000 Wisconsin residents who have been released from prison but are still unable to vote. Wisconsin not only bars those with felony convictions from voting until they have completed their time in incarceration, but their time on probation or parole as well. Ex-offenders on parole or probation are living in our communities, working, paying taxes and trying to get their lives back on track, yet they’re prohibited from voting on issues that directly affect them. And there’s no reason to believe that Wisconsin’s policy is enhancing public safety, promoting civic involvement or halting recidivism.

As the Restore the Vote Wisconsin Coalition points out, Wisconsin’s felon disenfranchisement law is more restrictive than the laws in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio. Heck, even George W. Bush enfranchised ex-felons in 1997 when he was governor of Texas. Why must Wisconsin continue to punish ex-offenders who have served their time and want to participate on Election Day? Legislators should pass the Wisconsin Democracy Restoration Act as soon as possible.

Heroes of the Week

Outpost Natural Foods: Corporate Citizens

Outpost Natural Foods, a local cooperative with several area locations, began in 1970 in a small space on East Kane Street. The user-owned co-op has grown exponentially since then. In addition to their efforts to provide Milwaukeeans with healthy alternatives to the processed products of factory farming, Outpost also gives generously to local charities, both through direct, weekly contributions of food to area pantries, such as the Hunger Task Force, and through its Community Wednesdays program, where a portion of its Wednesday sales are donated to a different nonprofit group each month. 2009 recipients of Outpost’s donations have included the Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee Urban Gardens and Adoption Resources of Wisconsin. The Shepherd commends the members of the Outpost co-op, and urges readers to support both their upcoming Food for the Hungry program and their Kids Warm Winter Clothing Drive.

Jerks of the Week

Abstinence-Only Advocates

If abstinence-only sex education worked, we’d be all for it. But there’s ample evidence showing that kids in abstinence-only education programs remain sexually active—and those who don’t know about birth control don’t use it. That’s why the Healthy Youth Act, introduced by state Sen. Lena Taylor and state Rep. Tamara Grigsby, would ensure that sex education is based on medically accurate information, includes information on contraceptives as well as abstinence, and is age appropriate. But even that sends abstinence-only advocates like Matt Sande of Pro-Life Wisconsin over the edge. “Pro-Life Wisconsin opposes the sexualization of our children,” he testified. Ah—hate to break it to you, but about half of Wisconsin’s high-school students say they’re sexually active, and almost 11,000 state teens get pregnant each year. They’ve already discovered sex. They need to learn how to be responsible for their actions and make informed decisions.   

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