Millions of Americans have had their right to vote permanently revoked for a felony conviction, effectively a life sentence for what may have been a one time error in judgement. A bill introduced in the House by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) would remedy this injustice.
The Democracy Restoration Act of 2015 would not restore the right to vote in local and state elections in the states that still feel one must spend his entire life atoning for a crime but it would enfranchise nearly 4.5 million people in all federal elections.
There are now only three states which permanently disenfranchise anyone who has served all of their sentences and completed parole or probation, Kentucky, Iowa and Florida. In these states even those who committed their crimes in another state and have served their time and had their rights restored lose them if they later move there.
Another 7 states permanently revoke voting rights for some felony convictions but not others. In 19 states after all prison time, parole and probation have been completed the right to vote is restored. Four states only revoke the right while prison time is being served or on parole or probation and 11 more restore the right to vote as soon as the convict is released from prison even if there is still parole or probation being served.
Two states, Vermont and Maine never revoke the right to vote, allowing even those imprisoned to continue to vote.
Conyers’ bill reads in part:
“The right to vote is the most basic constitutive act of citizenship. Regaining the right to vote reintegrates individuals with criminal convictions into free society, helping to enhance public safety.”
The bill goes on to say:
“Disenfranchising citizens who have been convicted of a criminal offense and who are living and working in the community serves no compelling State interest and hinders their rehabilitation and reintegration into society…
The United States is the only Western democracy that permits the permanent denial of voting rights for individuals with felony convictions.”
“Just as poll taxes and literacy tests prevented an entire class of citizens, namely African-Americans, from integrating into society after centuries of slavery, ex-offender disenfranchisement laws prevent people from reintegrating into society after they have paid their debt by serving time in prison,” Conyers said in a statement.
h/t: Huffington Post