What does it mean to be able to vote?
To Marvin Hatcher of Marlow, Tenn., it represents another step toward respectability.
Hatcher, 53, gave up his right to vote when he went to prison for stealing cars. While there, he joined a prison rehabilitation program and kicked his addiction to cocaine. After serving his sentence, Hatcher was ready to start a new life.
Now, 11 years later, he has a family, a business and a home. And, after a painstaking legal process, he has regained his right to vote. This year, he’ll step into a voting booth for the first time in his life.
"Voting wasn’t important to me until I got clean," Hatcher said. "I’m excited to voice my opinion."
Hatcher is one of eight people who will share what voting means to them in a new month-long radio series, "My Life. My Vote." The series was produced by WUOT 91.9 FM in collaboration with the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The series starts tomorrow and will air on WUOT Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout October during the NPR News programs "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered."
"Sometimes we take our right to vote for granted," WUOT News Director and Series Producer Matt Shafer Powell said. "Each person I interviewed for this series has a compelling reason to take that right seriously. They come from different walks of life, different situations — even different countries — but the common bond they share is a profound appreciation for the democratic process."
The interviews recorded for the radio series will form the cornerstone of a research archive that ultimately will feature 100 interviews at the Baker Center. The remaining interviews will be gathered by Baker Center scholars, following a training session on equipment usage and interview techniques led by Powell.
"Participating in democracy is the essence of being an American citizen, and the choice to vote is at the core of participatory democracy," Baker Center Executive Director Alan Lowe said. "The mission of the Baker Center is to develop programs and promote research that furthers the public’s knowledge of our governing system.
"The ‘My Life. My Vote.’ project will lend valuable insight into why people vote and what drives them to overcome challenges and obstacles to do so. In sharing these interviews, our hope is to inspire others to think about and become involved in the election process."
Photos of the participants and the radio segments will be available on the WUOT Web site, http://wuot.org/.
Listener-supported WUOT 91.9 FM is a 100,000-watt station broadcasting from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Qualified by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, WUOT is a member of National Public Radio, and a Public Radio International affiliate. WUOT’s primary format is classical and jazz music, news and public affairs. WUOT serves listeners throughout East Tennessee, and parts of Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and streams on the Web at http://wuot.org/.
The Baker Center is a nonpartisan center that develops educational programs and promotes civic engagement and research to further the public’s understanding and knowledge of our system of governance, critical public policy issues and the importance of public service. The center embodies a genuine respect for differing points of view, and it serves as a forum for discussion, debate, education and research.
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org