A.C.L.U.

 ACLU Action Alert: End Arbitrary Access To the Voting Booth
 
                      End Arbitrary Access  to the Voting Booth

                      Nearly 100 years ago, states across the South convened
                      constitutional conventions that sought to deny African Americans
                      the right to vote. To achieve their goal, the state conventions
                      passed numerous voting restrictions: literacy and property tests,
                      criminal disenfranchisement laws, poll taxes and grandfather
                      clauses. "Discrimination -- that, exactly, is what this convention
                      was elected for...with a view to the elimination of every negro
                      voter," a delegate in Virginia said. Since then, legislators and the
                      courts have jettisoned most of those biased laws. However, one
                      glaring exception remains -- criminal disenfranchisement laws.

                      Currently 3.9 million Americans are disqualified from voting
                      because of an inconsistent patchwork of state laws that
                      disenfranchise citizens who have been convicted of a felony.
                      Experts believe that in seven states one in four black men has
                      permanently lost the right to vote. No other democratic nation
                      indefinitely disenfranchises as many people because of felony
                      convictions.

                      The first step toward alleviating this lingering form of discrimination
                      is to pass legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).
                      The "Civic Participation and Rehabilation Act," H.R. 906, would
                      guarantee that citizens who have paid their debt to society and are
                      no longer incarcerated regain the right to vote in federal elections,
                      even if they are barred from voting in state elections.

                      There is no rationale for criminal disenfranchisement laws. As the
                      Ninth Circuit observed over two decades ago, “courts have been
                      hard-pressed to define the state interest served by laws
                      disenfranchising persons convicted of crimes.”

                                   Support This Legislation!

                         Criminal disenfranchisement laws were passed with
                      racially discriminatory intent and they continue to have
                      racially discriminatory results.

                      Felony disenfranchisement statutes are the last vestige of voting
                      prohibitions and should go the way of literacy requirements and
                      the poll tax.

                         Felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately
                      dilute the voting rights of African American citizens.

                      The Sentencing Project and Human Rights Watch estimate that “in
                      states that disenfranchise ex-felons, 40 percent of the next
                      generation of black men is likely to lose permanently the right to
                      vote.” Blacks are five times as likely as whites to be
                      disenfranchised under felony voter laws. This disproportionate
                      impact is a result of bias in the law enforcement system. According
                      to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, twice as many
                      whites as blacks use crack. Yet “drug czar” Barry McCaffrey
                      noted that nearly 90 percent of the people locked up for crack
                      under federal drug laws are black.

                         Once an ex-offender has paid his debt to society, it is in
                      everyone’s best interest that he be allowed to rejoin the
                      larger community with the full rights of citizenship.

                      1.4 million Americans remain disenfranchised even though they
                      have completed their sentence. If ex-offenders are indeed
                      expected to become productive, law-abiding members of society,
                      they should not be disconnected from our key democratic
                      institution – voting.

                                    TAKE ACTION!

                                    Fax your U.S. Representative

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What are the Police and Church groups afraid of ? Are they afraid that ex-felons can make better voting decisions than them?