Keith Sellars is considered one of the “Alamance 12” — the 12 people, nine of whom are Black, who were prosecuted for illegally voting in the 2016 election while on parole.
Sellars, who lives in Haw River, wrote an editorial that recently that appeared in The Herald Sun explaining his life experiences and asking why politicians would want to suppress his vote.
One in three black men in the United States has been charged with a felony. In North Carolina, black men are incarcerated at four times the rate of white men. And here, as in most states, that can mean harsh restrictions on your right to vote. So even if we think these laws are unfair, the opportunity to influence them is taken from our hands. These experiences led me to want to get involved in the political process.
I voted in the 2008 and 2012 elections. I had trouble with the law again after that, but I was committed to turning my life around. I decided to practice my right to vote once again in 2016. I was told that I could and that I should, because it was the most important election of my life. I didn’t realize at the moment that I would be targeted, prosecuted, and threatened with yet another felony — and two years in prison — for exercising that right.
For me it’s important that we call this what it is: voter suppression. Other policies — including a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment, polling site closures and early voting restrictions, and partisan and racial gerrymandering — hope to do the same. I’ve suffered severe consequences to exercise my right to vote. Is it because politicians are afraid of poor and working people like me actually having a say in how we run things?
Sellars was one of five people from the “Alamance 12” who took a plea deal to lesser charges than felony voter fraud.
As part of the deals, Alamance County prosecutors dropped all felony voting-related charges for the five voters, who were represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Sellars and the other four individuals each pleaded instead to a charge of misdemeanor obstruction of justice.
The were sentenced to 24 hours of community service and 12 months of unsupervised probation. You can read Sellars’ full column here.