I have never voted. By the time I was 18, I had a felony shoplifting conviction, which meant that I forever lost my right to vote in Virginia. I never had a chance.
Not that I cared about voting at 18. I started getting into trouble very young — running away from serious issues at home at age 12, drinking, smoking weed. I had a child at 16 (her father later broke my nose, which ended that relationship), and by the time I was 20, I had three more kids and a new addiction to crack cocaine.
I didn’t think of anyone but me. Besides, I thought voting was just for rich people. They made the decisions. I didn’t think I counted.
When I was in my early 20s, Bill Clinton was running for president, and I wanted to vote for him. I tried to register. That was when I learned that I couldn’t vote because of my record.
But I had other problems. I was often homeless. My grandparents were raising my two older children; the younger two had been adopted by other families. I saw them as much as possible, but most of the time I was using. Eventually I stopped visiting, except for a few periods when I managed to be sober and hold a job….”