If you're confused about voter eligibility and registration, you are not alone.
On Saturday Eminem gave the keynote address at the Detroit Hip-Hop Summit, with hopes of encouraging young people of the hip-hop generation to register to vote. In doing so, Eminem told the media and audience of 4,000 that he'd had his right to vote taken away, presumably referencing a felony conviction in 2001 in which he was given two years' probation (see "Eminem Gets Two Years' Probation In Weapons Case").
However, the star should be eligible and need only to register.
In several states, convicted felons are denied the right to vote. But according to the longstanding election laws of Michigan, the state in which Eminem resides, a convicted felon has only a temporary suspension of the privilege to vote while they are incarcerated. Those under probation do not lose the privilege, according to a spokesperson for Michigan's Bureau of Elections.
Eminem was not sentenced to any jail time and was only given probation in that case and another in 2001, concurrently, for an incident involving a person working with the Insane Clown Posse (see "Eminem Gets Probation For Pulling Gun At ICP Run-In"). Thus, Eminem, who previously had not been registered to vote, should never have had his right suspended or revoked.
A spokesperson for the rapper said Eminem and his camp had always been under the impression that convicted felons were denied the right to vote. The rep said Eminem's attorneys were looking into the matter and that if it turns out the rapper is eligible, he probably will register.
The intricacies of Eminem's voting status underscores the murkiness of voting laws for convicted felons in America, ironically a touchstone for Russell Simmons and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, organizers of the weekend's Detroit Hip-Hop Summit.
For more on this issue, see "Should Convicted Felons Have A Vote? Most Don't."